March 11, 2012 marked the one-year anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that ravaged Japan and caused a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. Immediately following the catastrophic events, B’nai B’rith opened a disaster relief fund to assist in the recovery effort.
In addition to offering immediate aid, B’nai B’rith is also determined to provide long-term support. In collaboration with the Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid (IsraAID), B’nai B’rith donated equipment to child-friendly facilities for displaced children and helped fund educational endeavors meant to teach post-trauma courses for doctors and teachers in multiple towns affected by the earthquake, tsunami and ensuing nuclear catastrophe.
Most recently, B’nai B’rith has allocated $25,000 through its partnership with IsraAID to develop a survivor documentation and testimonial project. Those individuals who were fortunate enough to survive the earthquake and tsunami witnessed the loss of friends and family as well as the devastation to their own property and livelihoods. While reliving the tragedy is difficult, sharing personal stories can be therapeutic and a vital part of healing for the survivors.
But Japanese culture does not readily invite strong displays of emotion, and survivors are hesitant to share their stories. Through this project, however, survivors of the natural disaster are encouraged to open up and let their emotions out. Not only does this project hold therapeutic significance for the survivors, but it has cultural, historical and social value as well. Documenting survivors’ stories will help shed light on the acts of bravery and generosity in the days immediately following the disaster.
IsraAID will use written testimonials, video interviews and photo shoots to document the stories of the survivors. The documented testimonials will then be distributed to archives and museums in eight towns of the Tohoku region of Japan where the testimonials will be used for educational and commemorative purposes.
In addition to continuing to work in Japan, B’nai B’rith has remained dedicated to providing lasting, long-term support in Haiti more than two years after the earthquake devastated the Caribbean country. B’nai B’rith helped to raise a total of $255,000 for relief efforts in Haiti. Through its partnership with IsraAID, B’nai B’rith has continued to sponsor Haiti Grows, a program which utilizes Israeli agricultural experience to help Haitian farmers develop and cultivate their lands and livelihoods.
Currently, Haiti Grows is in the midst of its first six-month famer training program, where 60 local farmers are learning numerous skills like pest management, seedling production and crop selection. Haiti Grows has continued to forge relationships with the Haitian government and international organizations to provide the needed agricultural resources to enable rural Haitians to grow their own food and provide for their families.
B’nai B’rith has also donated to the Dream Team of Haiti scholarship program. Dream Team of Haiti is a youth leadership group dedicated to promoting education, solidarity and public service. The scholarship program identifies exceptional individuals with strong commitment to leadership and community involvement. The donation from B’nai B’rith has helped Dream Team members continue to attend school while remaining involved in their local communities.
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