You've undoubtedly heard about the current situation unfolding Japan following the 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami on March 11th, 2011. Thousands of people have been declared dead, while thousands more are missing and unaccounted for. Homes have been destroyed and people are being evacuated. The nuclear crisis developing from the Fukushima Daiichi plant will undoubtedly have long lasting and tragic effects on Japan and on the world.
Amidst this tragedy, there are inspiring stories of heroism. Hideaki Akaiwa faced the 10 foot water wall armed with scuba gear to save his wife and mother, and has since returned to the flooded streets of his city every day to rescue survivors. The workers of the Fukushima Daiichi plant have willingly exposed themselves to extreme levels of radiation while they work to stabilize the reactors.
There might not be a lot that you can do or a lot that you can give, but that's no reason not to do anything. Do what you can.
Be wary of organizations, and do research before giving anything. In a situation like this there are people who will try to take advantage of compassion, so it is best to give money to organizations that have proven their effectiveness in previous cases. The Huffington Post has compiled a list of legitimate organizations that you can donate to, including but not limited to Doctors Without Borders, Red Cross, and Save the Children.
If you're interested in getting something for your donations, you can find goods on Etsy that are designated for Japanese relief. Large percentages of the profits for these items are being sent to charities.
When you're unable to make significant monetary donations to any organizations, consider alternatives to money. Students Rebuild has partnered with DoSomething, and has a donation goal of 100,000 paper cranes. For each crane that they receive, they will donate $2 to Architecture for Humanity, until they reach $200,000.
They're very helpful in answering any queries that you might have about the project, and they have a crane count on their website that they upload daily. I've emailed them a few times, and they've mentioned that they suggest that cranes be made in a 4x4 paper size, although they are very lax about these dimensions. If you've got a stack of origami paper sitting on a shelf somewhere, it's time to dust if off. If you are unsure about how to make a paper crane, search online for a tutorial, or find me sometime and ask me. Don't be afraid to send in more than one crane- if you have fifty cranes or more you can request a free UPS mailing label via email. Or, give it to me, and I'll include it in the next box that I send in.
Know of any organizations that you think that I should mention, or have any ideas for fundraisers for Japanese relief? Leave them in the comments, I'd love to hear them. Keep me posted about what you're doing and I'll be sure to do the same.