Editor’s note: Like many of you, we’ve been at a loss for words while we’ve seen the reports and images coming out of Japan. There is so much destruction that it seems overwhelming. We wanted to get a report from people working to help those on the ground, so we asked World Vision to give us an update on their efforts in Japan in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and tsunami. The following is a conversation between Lindsey Talerico, a blogger for World Vision, and Casey Calamusa, the emergency communications officer for World Vision, U.S. Casey was deployed to Japan to help with relief efforts there.
Lindsey Talerico: What did you notice when you first arrived in Tokyo?
Casey Calamusa: Tokyo was not affected too badly by the quake. But the disaster is obviously on everybody’s mind. Aftershocks were also expected, so that is keeping everyone on their toes.
LT: How are the people of Japan coping with the disaster?
CC: People certainly don’t seem hopeless; they are resilient and are determined to move forward. The World Vision staff, specifically, have tremendous faith and it’s encouraging to see them respond with such passion.
LT: In terms of relief response with a disaster of this magnitude, where do we even start?
CC: It starts with an assessment team currently in Sendai—the hardest hit area. The team brought an initial supply of baby items to distribute, and will be talking with families to find out what their greatest needs are.
Next, WV will have a much clearer picture of how to move forward. Back at the office, World Vision Japan is closely coordinating with other relief organizations and working with government and local authorities to see what gaps we can fill.
The Humanitarian and Emergency Affairs manager here in Japan is a veteran of disaster response, having served in Haiti last year, in Myanmar after Cyclone Nargis, in Pakistan after the earthquake in ’05, and in Asia after the massive tsunami in ’04. The difference now is he is responding to a disaster in his home country.
LT: How does this disaster compare or contrast to last year’s quake in Haiti? Many have also compared this disaster to Hurricane Katrina. Are these fair comparisons?
CC: Every disaster is different, which is part of what makes disaster response so difficult. In this case, Japan is a country that experiences a lot of earthquakes, has strict building codes and a strong ability to respond to these kinds of disasters. Haiti did not have any of those things. A more accurate comparison would be the Chile quake in February 2010, which was an 8.8, but because of strict building codes and a quick response by the government of Chile, there was much less loss of life.
LT: How are churches in Japan involved in the relief response?
CC: I just talked to a WV Japan staffer about this. World Vision partners with local churches, and they appeal to their congregations to provide support for relief efforts. As well, our relief team in Sendai right now is staying at a church that we partner with.
On a personal note, I went to daily devotions with WV Japan earlier this morning. Every day the staff here gather and sing songs and spend time in prayer. It was very moving to see the whole office come together despite this time of tragedy. Many were crying, but their prayers were powerful.
LT: On that note, how can we be praying for those in Japan, and for aid workers working to reach those affected?
CC: Be praying that the people who have been affected do not lose hope. Pray for a quick recovery, and especially for children, who are left to vulnerability during a time like this. Pray that aid will reach the hardest-hit areas quickly and will help the people on their path to recovery.
World Vision is gathering relief supplies including water, blankets and diapers to serve an initial 6,000 people in Japan. Donate to World Vision by clicking here.