Friday, March 18, 2011

Newsline Extra: Update on Japan relief effort

Church provides grant for disaster relief in Japan; Brethren Disaster Ministries, BVS receive reports from partner organizations

An initial grant of $25,000 from the Church of the Brethren's Emergency Disaster Fund is being given in support of disaster relief work in Japan following the massive earthquake and tsunami that hit the island nation a week ago today. The grant will support work by Church World Service (CWS) and local partner organizations.

"This is a very unusual situation," reported Brethren Disaster Ministries executive director Roy Winter, who has been in meetings with CWS and ecumenical partners about the situation in Japan.

"Usually CWS and Brethren Disaster Ministries do not respond to an international disaster in such a developed country," he said, "but the complexity and extent of this disaster simply demands we respond when the need is so great. The Japanese government is clearly leading the response effort, but our help is needed to meet the extensive need of so many who have lost so much."

On March 11, a powerful and devastating earthquake in Japan resulted in a tsunami and a complex disaster. "The extensive destruction of quake and water is now laced with evacuations and fear as radiation leaks from nuclear power plants," said Winter's grant request. "In many ways the disaster is still unfolding, with over 11,000 deaths and more expected. A half million people are displaced and the need for relief supplies increases as supplies in the area are depleted."

The Japanese government has described the destruction and crisis as the "worst since World War II." In an appeal from CWS, the agency reported that the "reported death toll and missing combined as of March 16 stands at 11,521 people with fear of thousands more unaccounted for. More than 460,000 people are now staying in evacuation sites, where the number of people arriving exceeds the capacity of space, food, water, and toilets." In addition, explosions continue at the Fukushima-Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, CWS said. As of March 16, a 20 kilometer radius was considered a "need to evacuate" zone.

The initial grant from the Brethren fund will provide emergency relief supplies at evacuation sites where basic needs of food, water, sanitation, electricity, and fuel are not being met. CWS is coordinating the response by working with partners such as the Japan Platform and the National Council of Churches in Japan. A relationship with the Japan Platform was developed during the response to the Indonesia tsunami in 2005.

Also, Gift of the Heart Hygiene Kits are being sent to Japan from warehouses in region. "These warehouses will be resupplied from the Brethren Service Center" in New Windsor, Md., Winter reported. He highlighted this as a key part of the response for the Brethren.

Go to for information about how to collect and donate hygiene kits, which provide disaster survivors with simple but essential self-care items such as soap, towels, toothbrush, toothpaste, and more.

Go to for online giving to the Emergency Disaster Fund to support the relief effort, or send to Emergency Disaster Fund, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120.

Brethren Volunteer Service project sites report from Japan

Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) currently has two volunteers serving in Japan. Ron and Barb Siney from southern Ohio are directors at the World Friendship Center in Hiroshima, which is in an area less affected by the disaster. They will complete their two-year term in mid-May, reported BVS director Dan McFadden, who is scheduled to speak with the Sineys by telephone today.

The Asian Rural Institute is a BVS site in the north of the country, some 80 miles from the damaged nuclear plants. The institute "did experience structural damage to some of their buildings," said McFadden, who clarified that "we do not have a BVSer there yet" because the institute just this year became a project site for BVS.

The institute also is a grant recipient from the church's Global Food Crisis Fund, which earlier this year designated $3,000 for its work. GFCF manager Howard Royer today said that the grant is on its way.

A March 14 e-mail from the institute to the BVS office included the following prayer concerns:

"How can you pray for us:
  • Pray for the continued safety of our community and others in Japan as tremors continue.

  • Pray that God would bring control to this powerplant situation and protect us and others in Japan.

  • Pray that God would give us wisdom as to the future. We have to decide soon about accepting new students as well as clean up the campus.

  • Pray that God will use us to help in this community for the furthering of His Kingdom.

  • Pray for the various rescue teams that are working around the clock to rescue people, especially in Miyagi and Iwate prefectures.

  • Pray that this situation would lead to the Salvation of many in Japan and that people would have a chance to think of what is life really for.... May the Love of Christ be with you and us and may we continue to praise God for all of his supply."
"Please keep them and all of the people of Japan in your prayers," McFadden asked.

Reports from CWS and other ecumenical partners

The initial CWS appeal for the Japan emergency, issued on March 16, totals $2,590,450. CWS said that the two most immediate needs for affected families are rescue for those who are trapped and mobilization of relief goods to evacuation sites. Rescue interventions are primarily being carried out by the Self-Defense Force of Japan and other specialized agencies, including the Japan Rescue Association. The Japanese government has requested international assistance in response to this massive disaster.

The need for relief supplies is increasing, CWS reported, particularly in areas where the some 460,000 displaced people are now living. These sites are reporting a lack of food, water, electricity, health and hygiene kits, as well as blankets and stoves, which are critical given the current cold and freezing temperatures.

The CWS response centers on emergency relief support to at least 5,000 families, about 25,000 individuals, now living at 100 evacuation sites in the northeastern area of Japan--the prefectures of Miyagi, Fukushima, Iwate, Ibaragi and Tochigi. Assistance will include immediate required food items and non-food items through a partnership with the Japan Platform, known by the acronym JPF. CWS is focusing on evacuation sites where basic needs of food, water, sanitation, electricity, and fuel are not being met. These sites are presently being prioritized and identified by JPF.

The CWS response will include ready-to-eat food, distribution of sanitation kits including napkins and soap, and will address water needs including perhaps prepared green tea. Blankets, accessed from sources from within the region, are being prioritized to help protect people from the cold, which is becoming an increasingly dire problem as fuel and gas supplies are running out. In order to maintain radio contact at evacuation sites, batteries will be supplied to support victims receiving vital news on nuclear and radiation related developments, information collection and communications. Gas and fuel supplies will also be provided to evacuation sites.

The CWS Asia Pacific head of emergencies is stationed in Tokyo this week to coordinate the response along with a CWS team on the ground in Japan. CWS also is coordinating with Japanese organizations that have been involved in previous international ACT Alliance disaster responses including the National Council of Churches in Japan, the United Church of Christ in Japan, and Asia Volunteer Center.

In a CWS conference call today, Winter learned that ecumenical partners and other Christian denominations are monitoring their mission personnel in Japan, who in some cases are planning to evacuate or are moving to safer areas of the country. In some cases, clergy and church members are still unaccounted for, at least one denomination reported. Some church groups are still assessing their role in the disaster response, others have launched appeals for funding.

CWS has provided the following link to a World Health Organization (WHO) website of FAQs about Japan nuclear concerns:

The Mennonite community has provided a page of worship resources for people of faith who are concerned about the Japan crisis, find it at The Mennonite World Conference is making plans to walk and work alongside Japanese Anabaptists in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami. An intercontinental teleconference on March 16 brought together representatives from Mennonite, Mennonite Brethren, and Brethren in Christ churches and agencies, including Mennonite Central Committee.


Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren, or 800-323-8039 ext. 260.

No comments: