Golden week volunteering - tips

Much to the surprise of many people - this Golden Week - very few groups have large scale volunteering programs set up. Peace Boat already has their 500 people assigned to teams to do food prep and mud clearing.

I know many of you want to head up to help. If you are inclined to go up - Go through an organization or group already set up. MOST ACCEPT VOLUNTEERS AS THEY NEED THEM, NOT ALL THE TIME. Do not be surprised that you might be turned away if you just show up.

Contact an organization or a local disaster volunteer center first and ask them about their needs. Let them know when and how long you can help out for and ask if there are any particular things you will need to bring: http://www.jpn-civil.net/support/volunteer/post.html

For nonJapanese if you have limited Japanese language skills, go with people who are fluent.  To be effective you will need to be able to communicate with people - otherwise you will be draining off resources that are already lacking.

Remember, there are all sorts of work that needs to be done for all levels of physical strength. But the work is NOT easy, whether you are cleaning mud out of homes, moving drift wood, bathing elderly people, driving for 12 hours or cooking 2 meals a day for 1000 people.

Some tips for people going up:
1. Dress appropriately for the cold. Wear work clothes, including boots and gloves, etc. Do not bring too many things.
2. Bring face masks and antibacterial hand wash.
3. You should have proper identification and insurance--most places will not accept you unless you do.
4. NO picture-taking (no “disaster tourism” please!)
5. Be self sufficient: Bring all your own food, water, wet tissues, garbage bags, toilet paper, etc. In some cases, you will need to bring your trash back with you
6.  Be sensitive to the local people's feeling and needs. Be careful about what you say to people, about asking about people's experience and please avoid nervous laughter - this can cause harm.
7. Check if the location you are going to has any specific needs - do not fill up your car with diapers just because you hard they are useful. There are big gaps in resources and facilities.
8. Housing: looking to this before you go. Understand that there may or may not be places to stay and you may not have a chance to change privately.
9. Gender violence issues: if you are a woman please be careful about going anywhere alone. If you are a guy - please look out for your female friends. In post-disaster situations gender based violence spikes and from what I have heard so far, no evacuation center leaders (mostly old men) do not want to deal with the existing GBV as they are worried about bad press.
10. Be ready to work hard, at least for a while; but be ready to stand around waiting, also. That is part of the deal.
11. Expect to not be able to take daily showers.
12. Go with others....

This work is stressful and can be shocking - your support is needed but after each disaster some volunteers end up needed to be rescued themselves. Know your self and what you can contribute.

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