”ROAD Project” to Help Rebuild Tohoku

Five Billion Yen in Donations Pave Way to Recovery

The Nippon Foundation has been assisting the activities of nonprofit organizations and volunteer groups in areas devastated by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake through its ROAD Project, which has already raised more than ¥5 billion in donations from inside and outside Japan. The project has a system in place to assess the needs of disaster areas and enter partnerships with specialized nonprofit organizations.


Bolstering Relief Work in Disaster Areas

The ROAD Project brings together the disaster relief and reconstruction programs planned and implemented by the Nippon Foundation. The initials in the project name stands for “Resilience will Overcome Any Disaster”—forming the word “road” to suggest the road leading toward the recovery of the disaster areas in northeast Japan (Tohoku) as well the paths heading in the direction of a hopeful tomorrow and the fulfillment of individual dreams.

Photo of stricken areas of the Great East Japan Earthquake

The Nippon Foundation has raised more than ¥5.23 billion (as of September 18, 2012) from numerous individuals and companies. Every single yen is directed toward relief work undertaken by NPOs in the areas devastated by the quake. The foundation has also received offers of relief supplies from corporations and welfare organizations. The ROAD Project has made it possible to assist the disaster recover more effectively by teaming up NPOs active in the disaster areas and providing them the donations and supplies.

Donations can reach people in the disaster-stricken areas in a number of ways. In the case of donations made to the Japanese Red Cross Society or the Central Community Chest of Japan, the funds raised are distributed to people living in disaster areas by local government agencies, in line with rules established by prefectural disbursement committees. In contrast, contributions to the Nippon Foundation are channeled straight to relief operations in disaster areas—rather than to individuals. Immediately following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, the ROAD Project provided assisted the effort to transport volunteers, deliver supplies, remove debris, and cook and deliver hot meals. Today funds are being used for a wide range of endeavors, spanning such fields as education, health, and welfare.

Photo of support activity after the Great East Japan Earthquake

The Start of the ROAD Project

The Nippon Foundation reacted quickly to the Great East Japan Earthquake that struck on March 11. At 8 p.m. on same day, the announcement was made that the foundation was establishing a relief fund and would begin fundraising together with NPOs. Two days later, the Nippon Foundation convened an emergency meeting of its board of directors meeting, attended by around 30 people, including Chairman Yohei Sasakawa and the other board members, as well as young foundation employees with experience in disaster relief activities. Out of this meeting the framework emerged for the ROAD Project, based on the concept of developing activities on the national and international level to support the disaster areas through donations collected from people around the world.

photo of a fund-raising activity

The ROAD Project activities are conducted in accordance with two of the Nippon Foundation’s seven principles of philanthropy. The first is that assistance should not be spread in a thin and equal manner, but rather should be thoroughgoing, precise, and targeted where the need is greatest. The other principle is that action should be quick, and failure must not be feared.

Taro Tamura, who is head of the Joint Project to Support Disaster Sufferers through Coordination with Nonprofits (“Tsuna-pro”) and also a representative of the Institute for Human Diversity Japan, explains more about the strategy.

“In my opinion, the Nippon Foundation took on a huge challenge when it decided it would not just use money it had but embark on a broad fundraising campaign. Raising donations gave the many people who wanted to go to the devastated areas and help but could not a way to contribute. Another important thing about the ROAD Project is not only that the activities have been promptly implemented but that the sources of the donations have been diverse. Making donations to the Japanese Red Cross Society and public institutions like local government agencies is grounded in the donors’ trust that government agencies will act, but these days those agencies do not function as effectively as they once did. This is why it is so important to have funds that also flow to non-governmental organizations.”

Rather than having their donation distributed widely, some people want to directly fund an organization doing the kind of relief work that they themselves would like to. But it can be hard for an individual to locate and choose a deserving volunteer organization. This is where the Nippon Foundation has an important role to play as a philanthropic organization that is able to coordinate the efforts of NPOs in the disaster areas and has the know-how to evaluate those NPOs, provide them with funds in order to meet a variety of needs. Tamura says that through the achievements of the ROAD Project we will be in a much better position to deal with the next earthquake.

A variety of ROAD Project activities were implemented quickly and flexibly to meet local needs during the emergency relief phase that spanned the four months after the earthquake and tsunami. The distribution of condolence money to bereaved families and families of missing persons, and the provision of emergency operation grants of up to ¥1 million to NPOs and volunteer organizations in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, were two activities in particular that won strong praise for making full use of the Nippon Foundation’s resources and strengths. These efforts were followed by initiatives implemented from a medium- to long-term perspective.