Like so many of you, I have spent much of the last week going about my life with one ear tuned to the ever-present TV, listening to coverage of Japan and feeling sick at their plight. Earthquakes are terrifying enough, without a tsunami and the threat of exposure to nuclear radiation.
The obvious question is, "How to most effectively help?" I am not 100% sure that the following is the best answer, but will throw it out there and let you decide for yourselves.
For Japan with Love
Lydia at Ever Ours and many others are proposing and participating in a fund raising effort to support the recovery efforts in Japan. They are raising funds for ShelterBox. This is an international organization headquartered in the UK that provides tents and (basically) camping equipment for families without shelter. Their web site says that they are already delivering these boxes in Japan and that they have helped all over the world in recent crises like this. Each box costs $1,000 (American) and holds a tent large enough for a family or group of ten people. It also includes a stove, cookware, blankets, ground covers, and a tool kit - no food in this.
All of the necessary links are on Lydia's site.
This sounds like a great idea to me. What I understand about the Japanese people is that they are incredibly hard-working and enterprising. That leads me to believe that once their immediate needs for shelter and food are met, they will dive into cleaning up and rebuilding their country in an incredible manner. But, clearly today's need is food and shelter. ShelterBox seems like a great solution. And, honestly, I love the "concreteness" of this as a way to help.
But. There is always a "but".
The U.S. website www.CharityNavigator.com evaluates charities and rates them - based largely on how they spend the money they raise. They give ShelterBoxUSA (the US branch) a 3-star rating - 3 out of 4. According to their scale, ShelterBox spends roughly 20% of the funds they raise on fund-raising and administration. The charities that are 4-star rated spend about 5% on fund-raising and administration. I'm not saying that 20% is necessarily bad, but you need to take it into consideration before you send your money to them.
The question is, "Is what they do important enough to me to spend the 20% on administration?"
I don't have that answer yet for myself, but wanted you to know about this opportunity if - like me - you are still trying to decide what agency can best translate your dollars (pounds, Euros, drachma, rubles,etc.) into meaningful assistance to the people of Japan.
4 days ago