Part I – Animal Rescue to the Japan Disaster Area

Just a note…

Although this is a photographic blog, I am posting my trip to the disaster area of Japan to aid in the rescue of the animals here. I have had incredible support in so many ways, whether they be in donations, help in looking after my family while I was gone, or prayers. I’d like to thank you all for your part in helping the animals and ultimately, the people who were affected by the horrific disaster in Japan.

Looking back, this trip has been one of many, many contrasts. Beauty and darkness, kindness and non-compassion, life and death…As the events unfolded and I opened myself up to so much pain and sadness, kindness and beauty were magnified tenfold. This is the point where you truly feel alive…not the numbness of everyday monotony when life gets too comfortable. It was from this frame of mind (heart) that in order to accomplish our mission, we had to build walls tall enough to see over, but keeping it small enough to stay within our perimeter to keep our focus on the needs of the animal friends we were there to help. I guess this is what saved our sanity there.

Getting there…

March 11, 2011…phone rings from my ex-husband, Tony. Was my TV on? Had I heard about the earthquake in Japan?

I don’t watch news on TV. Earthquakes in Japan are not headliners…except if they cause major damage. Once I turned on the TV, I couldn’t turn it off. For two weeks I watched all the images and videos that came out…maybe in a way to share in the pain of the Japanese people.

Flattened By The Tsunami

I grew up in Japan and spent 18 years of my life there. In my heart, I still consider it “home” so to see this happening there, it was literally hitting “home” for me. I did what everyone else did with donating what I could afford to help out. But I was feeling that it wasn’t enough. I followed Facebook diligently for any news and learned up on the nuclear power plants and the implications of its damages. Everyone I knew had helped in some way to help the people of Japan…whether it be donations, fundraisers, or prayers. It was overwhelmingly beautiful how the entire world came together to help a country in dire need.

As I am passionate about animals, my focus was on what was being done to help them, also. I knew everyone was helping the people. But not much focus was being done on the animals.

I looked around for different fundraisers that were popping up around the Napa Valley. I asked if I would be allotted a small table to raise funds for the animal rescue portion of a disaster. Lessons from Hurricane Katrina taught us that animal rescue needed to be integrated into the disaster relief systems.

After contacting a few fundraisers, I was turned down each time. Either they were full (understandably) or they only wanted to represent their own organizations and didn’t want to share the billing with another (!), or not even any response at all! The most disgusting response to my request to have a small table for raising funds for animal rescue was that they didn’t want “to confuse donors” of which organization they were contributing to. Are you kidding me?? Isn’t the whole reason for having these fundraisers to help one another? Or was this just an avenue for their public relations?

The one lesson the Japanese were teaching us in their handling of this triple disaster was the lesson of community and of sharing. There was very, very little looting, if at all. Everyone waited patiently in line for rationed necessities, everyone helped one another out in any way they could. Stores that were ripped open by the earthquake or tsunami were not raped of their contents as happens in other disasters in other countries. If anything at all, shouldn’t we be trying to learn something from the incredible behavior of the Japanese in the wake of such a horrendous disaster?

I have a very strong belief that there are no such things as coincidences. I reminded myself that the reasons these fundraisers were not coming through was to make way for something bigger and better. As frustrating as all the denials to my requests were, I have to thank them for helping fuel my anger as this only channeled me to surge forward in ways that I had no idea I was capable of.

I have a little post-it note stuck of an Arabic proverb on my computer that reads: “The person who really wants to do something finds a way, the other person finds an excuse.” I was tired of being the person with the excuses…and too pissed off to just sit by this time. Little did I know it would mean going to Japan myself.

I contacted Kinship Circle, an organization that deploys volunteers for disasters and they accepted my application!! Whoo hoooo! I was going to Japan to help rescue animals!! My heart burst with anticipation, pride, and gratitude! I would be able to meet and work alongside those people who I read about in the website who, in my eyes, are my heroes! Wow!!

Not surprisingly, all my plans moved forward without a hitch! I found myself standing in front of the All Nippon Airways with my overweight bag and two boxes of Tyvex protection suits with an airline attendant waiving any extra fees and not even a mention of them…only a thank you for my services!? This was to be the tone for my trip.

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One Response to Part I – Animal Rescue to the Japan Disaster Area

  1. Rae Sheffer says:

    What an amazing story, I’m so proud of you for doing what you did, and even have pictures, beautiful pictures!! Brought tears to my eyes. Looking forward to reading more of your true story.
    Love, Rae

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