Akira Update April 9th, 2011
Dear Skiers Helping Japan:
2 weeks ago I was in the Tohoku area to bring a load of winter jackets to the shelter and to see the devastation with my own eyes. I have never seen anything like that in my life. I was at a true loss for words.
As you know, the reports say we lost 11,000 and 22,000 people are missing. Looking at the piles or wreckage, makes me realize that we probably won’t find most of those 22,000. They are just gone.
Surprisingly, with so much death and destruction, the people there were actually optimistic about the future. They were talking about eventually leaving the shelter and rebuilding their lives.
But before they can build houses, they need to move the wreckage and garbage out. I’ve been seeing on the TV and images the last month, the main shelters packed and big destruction, but what I never saw were the many other smaller shelters packed with people and the actual widespread damage.
Yesterday I stopped at the stadium in Tokyo which is a makeshift shelter for about 150 displaced people from Tohoku. People are sleeping on the blanket as a cushion and using thin sheets to cover themselves. Incredibly, even after a month, they do not have the necessities.
I played with the kids. They told me stories about losing their house and home and are looking for new schools to go to (school year starts in April). On the face of it, these families — or what is left of them — seem like they are doing OK, but when you hang around and talk, you begin to feel a huge void in their hearts. Something so huge, is gone. There are so many emotions swirling and I am just so grateful to be there and share with these people. It’s an experience I would have never had, if I had stayed away.
Right now the people need essentials:
- toys for the kids
- relaxation for the senior citizens
- cleaning up wreckage
- funeral spaces (graveyard)
… and only then can they go to actually rebuilding their homes.
The recovery process will take a long time and I commit myself to support it as much as I can. I would like to ask the ski community again to come together and support our country on the many levels available: prayers, meditation, donations, and buying Japanese goods to support the economy.
Red Cross collected $500,000,000 and from where I stand, that’s not nearly enough. Yes, there are government money sources, but we are still very much in need.
My team is working on transferring your donations and pledges to banks in Japan. The countries banking system is (A) highly regulated and managing the many tax implications is tough and (B) it’s overwhelmed by all the little donation amounts that are coming in. Please be patient as we find the best way to process the money.
Red Cross is good at handling big big projects, but where your money will come in, is in all the little things that are needed, to specific areas.
The day I saw the Earthquake and Tsunami hit while in my apartment in Austria, I thought I wanted to help the cleanup effort and the heavy lifting. But after my experiences with the people in the shelters, on the streets, and in the stadium, I just want to see more smiles.