Travel News

Voluntourism Spotlight: JEN in Tohoku, Japan

This week’s Voluntourism Spotlight is inspired by Peter’s trip to Sendai for the World Travel and Tourism Council’s annual summit. More than a year after the tragic tsunami in Japan, the devastation is still staggering. The picture on the left is taken on the outskirts of the city, where thousands of headstones and urns of local cemeteries were literally washed away by the surging water. Left in their wake was a stone and marble scrapheap of generations of departed relatives. It’s a sobering sight, but what is uplifting is the incredible resolve and determination of the Japanese people to rebuild. This week, we’re spotlighting JEN’s volunteer efforts in Japan. Check back every Wednesday for more voluntourism opportunities and tune into Peter Greenberg Worldwide Radio on Saturday for more information.

It’s been a little more than a year since a 9.0 magnitude earthquake hit off the coast of East Japan and created a tsunami, which decimated a great deal of the Tohoku area and claimed a little over 15,000 lives, leaving many homeless and destitute.

Many international organizations rallied to Japan’s aid to help in finding survivors, securing food and shelter, cleaning debris, and rebuilding the devastated coastal and inland areas.

Although a year later much of the debris and wreckage has been cleaned away, there is still a lot of work to be done to help fully rebuild and revitalize the area. While some organizations have left, others remain to help restore Tohoku and its people, and they are looking for more volunteers.

The non government organization JEN (Japanese Emergency NGO’s), whose headquarters is located in Japan, has offered aid all around the world to areas devastated by national disasters and war. They have been working on cleaning debris and sludge in the Tohoku area since the onset of the earthquake, tsunami, and resulting floods.

During the past year, over 1,700 volunteers have participated in removing sludge and rubble as well as the transportation of food, medicine, and other amenities to various shelters in the Watanoha and Oshika district. They have also helped to revitalize the fishing industry in the affected areas such as the Sasuhama fishing village, which is able to celebrate its a festival in honor the beginning of oyster farming.

Even though JEN has made numerous strides in revitalizing and rebuilding the Tohoku region, they are still looking for more volunteers to aid them. If you’re interested or know someone who would be interested in volunteering with JEN in Japan or any other of their aid programs around the world, please visit them online.  However if flying half way around the world is too daunting, the organization also offers events and seminars around the world (including the states) that you can participate in.

For more information on the Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami, keep reading:

By Kevin Theal for