Japan tsunami relief: Red Cross on how to help

Mar 16, 2011

Join us as the Red Cross' Mark Preslan, regional director for Asia, Europe and the Middle East, chats about how you can help victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

How can an ordinary American Citizen help the victims of the sunami in Japan?

thank you so much for your concern. At this point the best way to help is though a financial donation. you can send a donation to redcross.org or text REDCROSS to 90999.

What is the best way to donate money for Japan tsunami relief?

If you want to get a tax deduction you can donate to redcross.org or text REDCROSS to 90999.  You could also donate directly to the Japanese Red Cross however you would not get a tax deduction.  Thanks for your support!

Why should the American people donate to japan when we as a country can't help ourselves ? Where is the money suppose to come from when our country is cutting things off our budgets ?

That's a really good question.  In our experience Americans are a very generous people and want to help others in their time of need -- even when we are going through difficult times here at home.  This is really a matter of what each individual is comfortable with. If some Americans want to help Japan now (as they are demonstrating they do) we want to be able to facilitate this support through our relationship with the Japanese Red Cross -- which is part of the global Red Cross network.  The Japanese Red Cross supported the American Red Cross through financial donations after Katrina and the 9/11 attacks so there are clearly Americans who want to return the favor.  Thanks again for your question. 

I'm from india and want to help the pepole who are suffering from the tsunami. Please advice us, how may we help them out?

Hi there -- we don't know if the Indian Red Cross has set up a fund in India to help the tsunami victims in Japan.  We'd recommend you reach out to your local Indian Red Cross chapter to ask them if such a fund exists.  Alternately you could check out online if the Indian Red Cross has a fund whereby you can send money electronically.  Please note that the Japanese Red Cross -- as the national Red Cross society in that country -- has not asked for personnel or supplies of any kind.  You could support the Japanese Red Cross through their online website if you want. I believe they have a donation page which you could use. 

If we know people in Japan, should we attempt to send "care" packages? Is mail service running?

That's a good question and I think the answer depends upon where in Japan you want to send this package.  For example, we know half a million people in northeastern Japan have been displaced and are living in shelters, many communications systems are down, roads and bridges are out so access for relief teams is a very big issue.  That said, in Tokyo, the capital of Japan, it would be a different story.  We understand through news reports that grocery stores are running low on food due to disruptions in transport systems in Japan.  That may in turn have an impact on mail service as well.  Whether your package would get to its destination may be a question better directed at express mail services like Fed Ex or others in that business.  Hope that helps ....

I want to donate clothes to Japan. How can I do that?

At this point what we're hearing from our colleagues in the Japanese Red Cross is that they do not need any supplies from outside the country. The main needs right now in this disaster (as is the case for most disasters) is the flexibility provided by cash donations.   Thank you for your thoughtfulness and concern.  

Is there any truth to the claims that service providers are not transmitting text message donations in a timely way to the organizations requesting them?

We have not heard about these concerns and certainly, we are receiving a lot of very generous text donations. Whether there are some who have been unable to get their text messages out we have no way of knowing that. 

To which relief agency should I donate to ensure that the money goes directly and immediately to Japanese in need?

That's a difficult question for us to answer objectively as we are one of the organizations that is accepting donations for the Japanese people.  I can tell you that as part of the global Red Cross network the American Red Cross has been in direct touch with the Japanese Red Cross since shortly after the disaster last Friday and we are sending donations we receive directly to the Japanese Red Cross.  Thank you for your question. 

My sense is that perhaps due to tradtional self-reliance, Japan does not have an established aid structure, as we do with the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and other such NGO's. Many of the international groups soliciting funds don't seem to have an ongoing presence there. Two questions: does this complicate their ability to step in and step up? How can I make sure my donation actually goes to Japan, rather than to other priorities?

Quite the contrary -- Japan is perhaps one of the most prepared, structure-oriented countries (when it comes to aid and much more) in the world.  Case in point, over 300,000 people were evacuated prior to the tsunami hitting last Friday March 11th, due to very well functioning early warning and preparedness systems.  In addition, the Japanese government has an extremely robust emergency response and aid system in place which is in full swing right now.  The Japanese Red Cross has a well-defined supporting role in this government-led system.  By the way, the Japanese Red Cross also has 2 million trained volunteers -- many of whom have been activated in the field now helping the people who've been evacuated or lost their homes, providing medical aid and psychological counseling. They are also distributing supplies like blankets as hypothermia is a key concern right now due to the fact there are over a million people who are without electricity or heat today. 

Where can I send snail mail donations?

Donate by mail



Hi there I'd suggest going to redcross.org and click on the "donate" button. Once you get to that page look at the top of that page for the words "other ways to give" -- click on that and you'll see a menu of options in the middle of the page.  You'll see the words "mail" once you click on that this is what you'll see:

A printable sheet is produced for you to mail to:

American Red Cross
PO Box 4002018
Des Moines, IA 50340-2018


Thanks for your support!

Can we organize pilots and airplanes to go get people from Japan and bring them to homes with extra rooms for them? I could put up a family. I'm sure many of us can.

That's an interesting question, but I'm afraid the American Red Cross is not the right organization to answer it.  Perhaps the US State Department can help you.  Good luck!

What does funding do for people, especially when lives are so devastated?

After any catastrophic disaster like this one there are both immediate and longer-term needs. Immediate needs now are for shelter, food, water, medical and psychological counseling.  These are needs that are being addressed by our partners the Japanese Red Cross.  Once the emergency phase of this disaster is over -- when we can't say -- the Japanese government will need to move ahead with helping their people recover.  For example, there are big projects which will need to be launched such as building homes for people who've lost everything including their means to support themselves. 

What are the reconstruction plans, or have any been made yet? I know this will vary across the country, yet I am wondering if there are enough construction jobs within Japan to rebuild, if they will be hiring outsiders, and if there are voluntary construction programs (like we have in America with Habitat with Humanity).

Thanks for your question.  Those are really important questions and reconstruction will certainly be a huge need -- but with the current focus on search and rescue and addressing emergency needs for the more than half a million people who've been evacuated -- we have no idea whether anyone in the Japanese government is focused on detailed reconstruction planning just yet. 

Will 100% of donations to the ARC be transferred to the Japanese Red Cross?

That's a great question.  With the exception of our costs for operations along the US west coast and Hawaii related to the tsunami last Friday (supporting more than 2,500 people in evacuation centers), and an average of 9% we typically charge for administrative costs, all the money raised by the American Red Cross will go to the Japan earthquake and tsunami . 

Thanks for your chat. I just made a donation on the website and earmarked it for Japan.

Thank you very much for your generosity!

After a disaster, I generally try to donate to agencies that are on the ground, but it seems there are very few outside agencies in Japan currently. All of my regular organizations are in the process of "mobilizing" but not one is there. I read that American Red Cross gave $10M to the Japanese Red Cross yesterday but without a dedicated fund, I can't be certain that my donation will actually help Japan. Can you please address this concern?

I'd recommend that you go onto our website and click on the donate button.  You'll see that there is a dedicated fund for the Japan earthquake and Pacific tsunami.  As part of the global Red Cross network of 186 Red Cross and Red Crescent national societies, the American Red Cross is in a position to directly support our colleagues in Japan's Red Cross. We have been in direct contact with them since shortly after the disaster and we currently have a senior disaster response delegate in Japan now working with Japan's Red Cross to provide high-level support and advice.   For your information, while Japan's government is the lead in disaster response in that country, Japan's Red Cross -- with 2 million trained volunteers -- directly supports those relief efforts. 

To the commenter who questioned why Americans should donate to help the people of Japan - Aside from the obvious answers that donating to any charitable cause of your choice is a good thing, you never know when you might need the services of a charity like the Red Cross. I had a significant house fire recently, and was surprised to find out that the Red Cross routinely sends volunteers out to assist displaced homeowners, offering to pay for a hotel room or other immediate needs like clothing. A volunteer came to my house that same night, bringing a flashlight and offering to help me go into the house and gather up supplies. Many thanks to the Red Cross for the services you provide domestically and internationally.

Those are the kinds of stories that keep us doing what we are doing today. Thank you so much for sharing your story.  Our motto is that we are there to help -- whether across the street, across the country or across the globe. 

What is the best way to help the victims in japan at this point?

I believe I've already answered this question but I'm happy to respond again.  You need to find whatever organization you feel most comfortable supporting on the ground in Japan.  As I work for the American Red Cross I can tell you for a fact that we're working closely with our partners in the global Red Cross network -- the Japanese Red Cross.  Although in Japan its the government that takes the lead on responding to major disasters -- Japan's Red Cross is highly engaged in a support role and is providing medical aid and psychological counseling as well as distributing emergency supplies like blankets.  While Japan's Red Cross is not asking for supplies or personnel from overseas -- they have told us they'd gratefully accept financial donations. 

Thanks for your response! For some reason, I didn't see it before. I will be making a donation today.

Thank you ...we greatly appreciate your support. 

I'll try to ask this gently and politely. Isn't Japan the 2nd or 3rd wealthiest nation in the whole universe? I completely understand that we should help them in our expertise (search dogs, nuclear experts, etc.), but I can't believe that they can't handle this financially. This is not Haiti, who could barely feed its people in the good times. Please tell me why I am so misguided. Thanks.

Thanks for the question and I understand why this would be a question on the minds of some Americans.  The best way I can respond is to say that the United States is also one of the world's wealthiest countries and the sole remaining superpower.  However, after Katrina struck people in other countries, including Japan, reached out to help us.  The Japanese Red Cross supported the work of the American Red Cross after Katrina -- even though we made no formal appeal for help.  The numbers keep climbing but at last check there were 500,000 Japanese who'd been evacuated to shelters with thousands upon thousands who've lost everything.  I suppose this is our opportunity to return the favor in Japan's hour of need.  

In This Chat
Mark Preslan
Mark Preslan is Regional Director for Asia-Pacific/Middle East/Europe, in the International Services Department of the American Red Cross. Mark has been with International Services since 1996.

Mark has over twenty five years experience in International Humanitarian Programs. He has spent half of those years living and working in Asia. He speaks one South Asian and one Southeast Asian language. Immediately before joining ARC, he worked as manager of the U.S. refugee training program in Thailand, working with refugees from Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Mark started his career as a Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal. He holds a Masters Degree in Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
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