It’s been over a week now. The damage caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake stretches, almost inconceivably, across the entire Tohoku region. Over the past week, JETs and JET Alumni from around the world have watched the images beamed into our TVs, computers and iPhones. Anderson Cooper has conducted interviews in the very towns we lived that are now very much in need. What has been our response? JET alumni from across the country have mobilized to disseminate information on the quake and current situation in Japan, have sought to find information on still missing JETs, and have begun organizing fundraisers to raise money for those who have suffered and are in need.
As we painfully know, JETAA as an organization has seen its support and funding from sponsoring organizations slowly diminish over the past few years. Now, JETAA is in an incredible position to be able to help and create value for the country, the cities, and our neighbors that have given us so much. Never before have I been more proud to be a part of this organization. Our response has been tremendous, and each day, I am hearing of information that chapters everywhere are organizing fundraisers and money to help with the relief efforts.
Our operating 501c3 registered non-profit chapters in New York (US-2) and Northern California (US-13), have quickly pulled together and established a fund for JETAA USA to support Japan earthquake and tsunami relief. This fund is an incredible opportunity for JETAA USA and our chapters for many reasons:
- This fund establishes an official channel for our 19 chapters across the United States to raise money and contribute too. Many of our chapters are already raising immediate donations for humanitarian efforts on the ground now. However, that is only one of many battles to come. Even if the immediate humanitarian efforts are met, we will still be faced with the enormous task of rebuilding, which is when the JETAA USA will provide. While your chapter member donations to the Red Cross, Mercy Corps, Second Harvest, and Peacewinds will help those in need now – your chapter member donations to the JETAA USA fund will help those in need over the long run.
- This fund allows JETAA USA to determine, for ourselves, the best way to contribute to relief efforts. Individual chapters will determine how they want their dollars raised allocated. Some chapters may choose to allocate a % directly to a relief organization and a % to the JETAA USA fund. While 100% of the money in the JETAA USA fund will be used to help Japan, you as a member chapter will have a voice on how this money is used. Do you want this money to be used for just schools in the affected areas? Let your voice be heard and raise donations!
- This fund will attract larger, tax-deductible donations. Corporations are more willing to donate to national campaigns over individual events hosted by our members. Additionally, our 501c3 member chapters will be able to issue notices that donations are tax deductible.
- The fund results are measurable. As a chapter, you may not be able to track all the money your individual chapter members have raised or donated directly to humanitarian organizations, however, JETAA USA will be able to track a grand total of money raised by chapters to go to relief efforts. If we work hard, this total will be one we can all reflect on as an amazing achievement of what JETAA USA as a whole can do.
- This fund establishes the framework for JETAA USA to operate as a legitimate national organization. For many years now, JETAA USA has discussed the possibility of forming a national NPO, and for many years, this initiative has failed to exit the planning stages. This fund will give JETAA USA a national footprint. After the successful results achieved from this endeavor, we will think of ourselves, not as 19 different chapters, but 19 chapters who are members of JETAA USA. This perspective that it can be done will make forming a national, independent governing organization for JETAA USA seem that much more attainable.
Thank you everyone for your desire to help, your immediate response and your contributions following this tragedy. While the sprint over the last week has seemed like an eternity, there are unfortunately many more months to come with many more opportunities to contribute to the country that has offered you so much with the JET Program. Fortunately, the JETAA USA fund has positioned our chapters for the entire marathon in order to make an impact moving forward.
JETAA International Vice Chair 2009-2010
JETAA USA Country Representative 2008-2009
Pacific Northwest JETAA President 2006-2008