Resources for survivors of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan

Originally Published: March 18, 2011
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Dear Alice,

What resources and assistance can I offer to people who were affected by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan?

Dear Reader,

Thanks for reaching out regarding the best ways to help. There are two possible ways to interpret your question, one answer for those in Japan seeking to return to the US and one for those seeking to provide support and donations to relief organizations. The information below should help address both areas.

The US government has been working to assist citizens and permanent residents currently in Japan to arrange travel back home. Families of Americans living in Japan are encouraged to contact the State Department at 888-407-4747 or by email. Keep in mind that in some areas the major infrastructure, including phone lines and Internet cables, were badly damaged and it may be days or weeks before general access to phone, Internet, email, and texting services is restored. Additionally, Columbia University has encouraged students and affiliates to return to the United States and is providing assistance with making travel arrangements. For more information on Columbia's efforts, and links to other support organizations, please visit the Columbia University website.

We are fortunate to live in a society where there are many organizations set up to help people affected by an emergency, disaster, or crisis. Currently, relief organizations on the ground in Japan need donations to continue functioning and providing medical and humanitarian services. There are a number of ways to donate and a number of relief organizations to support.

Red Cross
The Red Cross is one of the largest disaster-relief agencies in the world. After a disaster, the Red Cross provides any number of services, including food, shelter, access to health care, and other needs. In New York, the local Red Cross chapter can be reached at 212-875-2000. A $10 donation can be made by texting REDCROSS to 90999.

Doctors Without Borders
This global medical support agency has a team on the ground in Japan and has been working to provide support to the local authorities. To learn more about their efforts, please visit the Doctors Without Borders website.

Japan Society
The Japan Society has created a disaster relief fund to aid victims. To donate please visit their website.

Japanese Medical Society of America
The Japanese Medical Society of America aims to fund the acute and future medical needs arising from the current situation in Japan. This will include not only the physical aspects but also the mental health issues. You can donate on their website.

The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army has three emergency service relief teams working in areas affected by the earthquake and tsunami. One of the teams is assisting people who have been evacuated from areas threatened by the damage of nuclear power plants. Text JAPAN or QUAKE to 80888 to make a $10 donation. (Make sure to respond "YES" to the Thank You message you receive.) Go to or call 1-800-SAL-ARMY.

Save the Children
Save the Children has a team in Sendai, one of the worst-affected areas, establishing an operations base to help the most vulnerable children and their families. To make a donation, visit, call 1-800-728-3843, or text "JAPAN" to 20222 to donate $10.

Any of these agencies will be a good starting off point for people looking to support disaster relief services. Television, radio stations, and news sites will often have relevant information after a disaster or emergency, so keep your eyes and ears open.

It's helpful to remember that any crisis event can have an emotional impact, even if you aren't in the directly affected areas. At these times, reaching out for support from a counselor or other mental health provider can be helpful. For some people just one visit to assist in processing what has happened may be beneficial. Columbia students from Japan, students who were studying in Japan, and students concerned about loved ones in Japan may wish to speak with someone on campus. Students can call x4-2878 to make an appointment at Counseling and Psychological Services. To learn more about ways to get in touch with loved ones during an emergency, check out Getting in touch during an emergency in the Go Ask Alice! archive.

Helping out in the aftermath of the earthquake is very important, and any support you can give is appreciated. On behalf of all the survivors and their families, thank you for your commitment to helping after the devastation in Japan.