Helping Japan: Patience and Peace Winds

Is there really a “one size fits all” garment that looks good on everyone?  I know that I certainly haven’t found one.  Similarly, there’s no “one size fits all” response to natural disasters.  There’s not even a “one size fits most” response.

Each disaster is unique and requires careful assessment of the situation to determine what’s really needed.  Acting too quickly and sending relief items that aren’t really needed can compound disasters by clogging critical supply routes into an impacted country.

All this is to say that figuring out the best way to respond to the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on 3/11 has been challenging to say the least.  Unlike impoverished Haiti, Japan has a sound infrastructure that is well prepared to respond to natural disasters.  While I sit here following the graphic news updates on the situation unfolding on the ground, feeling desperate to help in some way,  I’m learning that the best thing to do for now may well be to practice patience.

Beyond reaching out to other governments for some search and rescue assistance, the Japanese government has not yet made any international appeals for help.  And if you contact most of the international NGO relief agencies, they are raising funds to support their response … although the direct course of action remains unclear.

So what can a mid-sized outdoor footwear and apparel brand in New Hampshire do to ease the suffering on the other side of the world?  We can be thoughtful, strategic, and patient as we determine our response.  The recovery efforts in Japan will go on for a long time.  While we’re all eager to help now, in the immediate aftermath, we’re closely monitoring the situation so that when the dust settles, we’re ready to help meet the defined needs that emerge.

For now, we’re providing assistance to our Japan employees who were directly impacted by the disaster.  We’re directing those who want to help to a Japanese-based NGO called Peace Winds which is currently actively engaged in the on-the-ground relief effort and is not subject to the same restrictions that may apply to the international NGOs.  We’re letting our employees know that we’re committed to the long term recovery effort in Japan and, when we have more clarity on the greatest needs and how we can best participate, we will activate our community programs and Global Stewards to help with the rebuilding process — focusing particularly on community and environment revitalization such as replanting, rebuilding or clean-up work.  In the meantime, we’re staying in contact with the international relief organizations and letting them know what we can provide so that they know to reach out to us if we can help.

And we’re waiting, like the rest of the world, to see what unfolds for our friends and colleagues in Japan who have endured this disaster with unmatched dignity and grace.

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