Posts Tagged ‘disaster relief’

In the Wake of Hurricane Sandy

Our thoughts are with the friends, families and fellow Timberland employees that are dealing with the impacts of Hurricane Sandy this week.  Like many other companies, we’re actively assessing the need for community support in the hardest hit areas, to see where and how we can be of most help.

If you’d like to support Hurricane Sandy relief efforts, please consider one of the many organizations that are currently mobilizing workers, setting up shelters and sending much-needed supplies to the impacted region, such as the American Red Cross and AmeriCares.

Sharing Strength in Japan

Takashi Lee is the Country Manager for Timberland Japan.  Below, he shares with us his recent experience traveling to and serving survivors in parts of Japan that were devastated by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in March.

On the early morning of June 29th, I was on the Tohoku Shinkansen (bullet train) heading for Ichinoseki, Iwate Prefecture, which is in the northern part of Japan about 400km away from Tokyo. It’s been more than four months since the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred, but even now, I am sometimes struck by the false sensation that the earth is shaking.

When the huge earthquake hit Japan on the afternoon of March 11th, I was on the 3rd floor of the building in Tokyo where TBL Japan office is located. Slow but forceful shaking continued for some time, and the magnitude was never a sort of what I had experienced in my life, and I thought then that “the time” was finally approaching to us. All the people in Japan are aware that a fatal earthquake will never fail to happen sometime, but we had been doing wishful thinking that it wouldn’t take place during our lifetime. Unfortunately, it did happen four months ago.

Months later, there’re still a really large number of sufferers who are in desperate need of any kind of support. So, we, TBL Japan employees as a team, decided to turn all the resources to disaster-related activities this year, in place of engaging in usual CSR activities. We have also given up participating in the tree-planting tour to the Horqin Desert this year so that we can send as many employees as possible to the disaster-stricken areas, because we think that the most socially-significant CSR activities we can do now is to help those affected by the quake. This time, as the first step, 12 TBL Japan employees including myself, decided to participate in volunteer work in a stricken area, working together with an NGO Peace Winds Japan.

It was a three-hour ride from Tokyo to Ichinoseki by Shinkansen. When I got off the train, I felt the scenery around the station looked just normal, as Ichinoseki is located inland and far away from coastal areas that were heavily devastated by the tsunami. Tens of thousands of people died or are still missing mostly in those coastal areas.

From the station, we then got on a chartered microbus for Ofunato where we were going to do the volunteer work at a temporary housing site. On our way to Ofunato, we passed through a beautiful coastal town Rikuzentakata, one of the most heavily hit areas by the tsunami. The town is located on the northeastern coast of Japan, along the Pacific Ocean, and was famous for a scenic area with around 70,000 pine trees, but they were completely destroyed by the tsunami. Only one of the trees survived. Local residents see it as a symbol of reconstruction.

Only one pine tree survived, which people see as a symbol of reconstruction

The quake at Rikuzentakata registered a magnitude of 6, and the tsunami that followed 30-40 minutes after the quake reached a height of 16 meters. About 1,800 people died out of the total population of 24,000, with 3,600 houses being totally destroyed. Read the rest of this entry »

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.