Three and a half years after an earthquake and tsunami devastated the northeastern Tohoku region of Japan, leaving more than 18,000 people dead and tens of thousands homeless, a $1 million grant from the Major League Baseball Players Trust is still supporting recovery efforts.
During the 2014 Japan All-Star Series, Players Trust Director Melissa Persaud and a group of a dozen players met and received presentations from the five organizations that Japan Society’s Earthquake Relief Fund helped identify to receive funds. The grant recipients discussed their work and the challenges they still face.
“Rebuildijng often takes years. One of the Trust’s missions is to refocus the spotlight on disaster areas long after the initial devastation,” Persaud said. “The players on the Trust board want to take a long-term approach so that support remains as long as there are people in need.”
Joining Persaud for the presentations from the groups were Jeff Beliveau, Jerry Blevins, Drew Butera, Chris Capuano, Dexter Fowler, Jeremy Guthrie, Hisashi Iwakuma, Evan Longoria, Mark Melancon, Salvador Perez, Tsuyoshi Wada and Rob Wooten.
Additionally, Capuano, Guthrie and Melancon and their wives visited a store (Fukishima Organ Dou) set up by a network of farmers from the affected region to sell their food and produce. The farmers’ group, Fukushima Organic Agriculture Network, used a Trust grant to purchase radiation halters and monitors to demonstrate to themselves and their prospective customers that their products weren’t contaminated by radiation.
The players gobbled up their food to demonstrate that the food was safe enough for world-class athletes who take their nutrition very seriously.
Other projects funded through the Trust included:
• Ashoka Japan’s Tohoku Youth Venture program, which supports high school and college student efforts to contribute to recovery in Tohoku;
• Two mental health projects with the Japanese Medical Society of America — Kokoro-no-Care Nagomi in Fukushima Prefecture and Kokoro-no-Kakehashi in Iwate Prefecture,
• and a leadership development project led by a group called Entrepreneurial Training for Innovative Communities.
“We are thankful for and honored by the generosity of the Players Trust,” Japan Society President Motoatsu Sakurai said. “Not only their financial support, but also for this unique partnership and shared concern for the long-term recovery of Tohoku.
“Though we are approaching the four-year anniversary of the earthquake, there is still much work ahead, and the Players Trust’s initiative raises awareness at a critical moment.”
Because of their caring and commitment to people in need, Major League baseball players formed the Players Trust — a charitable foundation that is the first of its kind in professional sports. Through the Players Trust, Major Leaguers contribute their time, money and celebrity to call attention to important issues affecting the needy and to help encourage others to get involved in their own communities. More info at www.PlayersTrust.org.
Launched by Japan Society on March 12, 2011, the Japan Earthquake Relief Fund (JERF) has received $13.89 million (as of September 3, 2014) from over 23,600 individuals, companies and foundations. Contributions have been received from all 50 states, and nearly 60 countries around the world. One hundred percent of the fund goes directly to support people affected by the disasters. To date $13.6 M of the fund has been earmarked to 43 organizations in support of 64 projects. For a complete summary of organizations and projects supported by JERF to date, visit http://www.japansociety.org/earthquake
Those wishing to donate to JERF can visit www.japansociety.org or mail a check to Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street, New York, New York 10017; Attn: Japan Earthquake Relief Fund. Checks should be made payable to “Japan Society” and indicate “Japan Earthquake Relief Fund” on the memo line of the check. For additional information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.