Foreign Policy Blogs

Authorities limit volunteers to quake relief centers

Of the 65 volunteer-staffed disaster relief operation centers in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, 56 are restricting the participation of volunteers. Some are allowing only local residents to volunteer at the centers. The restriction is due to the inability to accommodate large numbers of volunteers, as well as concerns of increased traffic due to the upcoming Golden Week holiday.

I understand the appeal of volunteering after a disaster on the scale of the March 11 quake and tsunami. A lot of people have a hard time seeing scenes from the disaster on TV and not lending a hand. I think some volunteers are also gawkers looking for photo opportunities (voluntourism). Either way, it looks like too many volunteers might be getting in the way of the relief efforts.

Some of my friends are looking to go to affected areas to volunteer during the upcoming consecutive national holidays. They were told it would be difficult to get into the areas, and that they would need to bring their own tents, sleeping bags and food.

I wouldn’t discourage anyone from volunteering. But I think volunteers should ask themselves if they really have any skills to contribute, or would they just be getting in the way? They should also evaluate their own motives. Are they moved by a genuine desire to help? Or do they just want to take pictures of themselves helping so they can post them on Facebook to show all their friends how much they care? Since most of the relief centers are turning away volunteers, I recommend volunteering at a local charity, rather than getting in the way at the already overcrowded relief centers.



Dustin Dye

Dustin Dye is the author of the YAKUZA DYNASTY series, available through the Amazon Kindle.

He lived in Okayama, Japan, where he taught English at a junior high school through the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program for three years. He is a graduate from the University of Kansas, where he received a bachelor's degree in anthropology.

His interest in Japan began in elementary school after seeing Godzilla fight Ghidorah, the three-headed monster. But it wasn't until he discovered Akira Kurosawa's films through their spaghetti Western remakes that he truly became fascinated in the people and culture of Japan.

He lives in Kansas with his wife, daughter and guinea pig.

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