| Apr 07, 2011
People responding to the earthquake and tsunami disasters in Japan have to make very difficult addition calculations involving the distance to the damaged Fukushima nuclear reactor facility.
The government has ordered everyone living within 20 kilometers of the facility to evacuate. They have encouraged everyone within 40 kilometers to evacuate as well. The U.S. Embassy has encouraged U.S. citizens to stay 80 kilometers away from the reactor. Our partner has decided not to send volunteers within a 100-kilometer range.
We drove within the 100-kilometer range today. We closed the windows of our car until we were outside the 100-kilometer range.
Never before have we had to consider radiation levels and nuclear risks in our disaster response efforts. That's one of the things that makes our response to this disaster so complicated.
Those who have had to evacuate from the area affected by the nuclear facility disaster face unusual difficulties. They have not lost their homes due to a tsunami or earthquake but they have lost their homes nevertheless. They don't carry the scars of a physical disaster but the impact of trauma and loss runs deep. They don't know when or if they can return home. They have lost their jobs and businesses. No one is coming to the area to eat at their restaurants or patronize their businesses. Many are elderly and are not able to start over in a different location.
These are some of the people we are helping in our work in Japan. People whose homes are located within the ranges listed above. With our help, our local partner will be sending volunteers to care for these people in the days ahead. These volunteers will provide structured activities to help children. They will reach out and listen to adults who are living in the evacuation centers. They will care for the elderly who are alone and frightened.
In the coming days, we'll also send volunteers from the U.S. to provide training in trauma counseling and emergency management techniques. Our volunteers will have to watch their distance from the Fukushima plant. I'm grateful for their willingness to serve. I'm also glad for your support of their efforts. Thank you for opening your heart to the people affected by these terrible disasters in Japan.