At the Consulate level as well as CLAIR, the main focus since this all started has been accounting for all in-country JETs. This has been a challenge as we battled against quasi-functional and non-functional communication lines. Tokyo was simply not able to function at it’s normal capacity, and since that is our centralized hub, us folks outside Japan scrambled to utilize the information and resources we had at hand to start establishing contact with JETs and confirming their safety. As the JET Coordinator in Denver, I just finished confirming the safety of all “my” Denver JETs this afternoon. First I had to map out all my JETs, determine who was in the most severely affected area and then starting calling their families. After making that first round of calls, I utilized the Denver JET group’s online forum, sent out individual emails and called remaining parents/ family members over a course of 3 days until finally everyone had been accounted for. The response I got from the parents I talked to was one of appreciation. Just knowing that folks were in action and cared was a relief to many of them. There was definitely a huge sigh of relief that escaped my lips at 3:45 MST today when that last name got ticked off my list.
Phone calls from concerned parents are trickling into the JET Program Offices across the nation. The biggest concern of most parents presently seems to be the current status of the Fukushima Daichi nuclear reactor. There are so many news sources stating different things that it’s been difficult to get an accurate read on things. I’m hoping that with the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) coming onto the scene, experts will be able to successful help deal with the country’s nuclear safety crisis and that the resulting reports will have weight with JET parents. I can understand their concern. Unfortunately, we don’t have any “insider” information and we are in the same position as everyone else- sifting through the news and trying to put it all into a big picture.
The other concern some parents are voicing is whether or not their son or daughter’s area has been relieved by emergency response teams. We certainly do have JETs in some deeply affected areas and as temperatures drop and the days march on, parents want to know if their child’s community in Japan has been tackled yet. There are still JETs that are in areas where they seem to be cut off from communications. If anyone finds any sort of comprehensive list of areas that have received relief aid, please share it by commenting!
A big challenge for me in dealing with all this has been to focus on accounting for my JETs while dealing with the huge influx of emails and calls. On top of that, there is the constant progression of events to keep on top of so that I remain informed. I’ve been sharing information regarding my JETs with CLAIR as needed so that we can work together in any way possible. All in all, the folks sitting behind their desks working on all this have shown dedication, sincere care for the JETs and a desire to pull together.
For in-country JETs, I think as the initial Hollywood excitement of being in the thick of it wears off (I’m sure it did quite quickly for most) and the reality of the severity of the situation and the very real scenery they find around them sinks in, a need for emotional support will become very real. This must have been a very scary experience to live through and for some in the most affected areas, it’s going to continue to be difficult on many levels as they work through things along side their Japanese communities. I’m sure both CLAIR and AJET will work together to provide the support needed on this.
I’ll post more on what Rod and I have been talking about over the past few days in regards to the JETAA USA role and response, but just wanted to share what’s been going on “behind the scenes” at the JET Program Office in the Denver Consulate. I imagine other JET Offices look quite similar across the nation.