Seventeen foreign chambers of commerce in Japan representing 34 countries have expressed their long-term commitment to helping the nation rebuild from the March 11 quake and tsunami that wrecked northeastern and eastern areas, by supporting activities of nongovernmental organizations.
In a joint event on April 25 of the chambers, which are made up of companies from 27 European Union members, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland and Norway, participants heard NGOs operating in the disaster-hit regions outline their immediate needs, as well as those over the long term.
NGOs such as Peace Boat, Children without Borders and the Japanese Red Cross Society called on member companies of the chambers to send their employees to the affected areas as volunteer staff and donate consumables, medical equipment and school supplies to help rebuild clinics and schools, as well as offer cash donations.
Martin van der Linden, a board member of the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce in Japan, which led the joint initiative of the chambers, told the gathering, ‘‘We set up this platform for people to talk and to see what can be done to help. We hope this forum will help you find ways to help and also to reduce this feeling of helplessness.’‘
He also suggested that the foreign chambers hold a follow-up event in six months to review progress in the NGOs’ reconstruction work supported by them.
Tatsuya Yoshioka, director of Peace Boat, said his organization is soliciting donations up to 500 million yen and volunteer staff to continue with its activities in tsunami-hit Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, for ‘‘at least one year’’ to offer 10,000 hot meals to disaster victims and help clean up 50,000 houses covered with mud after the tsunami.