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Born in Japan, U.S. Volunteer Helps Raise Millions for Earthquake Relief

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by March 17, 2011 General

AsiaNet 43784

OAK BROOK, Ill., March 17, 2011 /PRNewswire-AsiaNet/ —

Lions Clubs International Foundation Provides $US5 Million for Relief in Devastated Japan

Born in Kesennuma, Japan and now a development director at Oak Brook-based Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF), Norio Tanabe solicits donations from the Japanese for disaster relief around the world. Now the tables have turned. Tanabe is helping coordinate a relief effort that is mobilizing over US$5 million to aid devastated Japan, where he still has family.

“The city where I was born was like a sea of fire,” said Tanabe who now lives in Woodstock, IL.

As members of the world’s largest volunteer organization, Lions in Japan are coordinating recovery efforts via social media and using the Tokyo Lions office as emergency relief headquarters to organized 107,000 Japanese Lions volunteers. Lions members live in the affected communities, so they best know
the needs and work with local government to respond quickly and efficiently.

Oak Brook staff spoke to their Japanese members in the hardest hit areas on March 15: “The damage differs from place to place. Lifelines are mostly restored, but there is a gas shortage. I can’t travel far in my car to assess the needs and damage,” said Tsugumichi Hata, a Lion volunteer who lives in Sendai. During the middle of the call, a 6.0 earthquake struck in Tokyo and was felt in Sendai. “This disaster hasn’t stopped; it’s still ongoing,” said Hata.

Like other previous disasters, LCIF is not only committed to meeting the immediate needs of the people, but will be working through the Lions clubs based in the region to provide relief for years to come. LCIF is still helping in China following the May 2008 earthquake and in Haiti after last year’s earthquake. LCIF has more than 40 years of experience in disaster relief. All relief funds are administered by local Lions in the area.

Japanese Lions met with a mayor in an affected area to determine immediate needs. Using social media, they mobilized to send 6,000 two-liter bottles of water and packs of energy supplements. Club members from Kobe are helping lead relief efforts, given their earthquake disaster relief experience. They created
a map of clubs in Japan ( which details how they will be helping, once volunteers are permitted in the area. With over 31 clubs in Sendai alone, Lions are well-positioned to provide immediate and long-term assistance.

“I just returned from Christchurch, New Zealand, and I thought I had seen it all, but this is unbelievable. Looking to the extraordinary dimension of this earthquake and tsunami, the Foundation and Lions are committed to providing immediate and long-term relief. Lions of Japan are often the first to respond to other disasters, and now we will help them during their time of need,” said Foundation Chairperson Eberhard J. Wirfs.

The US$5 million provided by Lions Clubs International Foundation includes major grant funds as well as designated donations from Lions members around the world, including US$3 million from Lions members in Japan. Visit to make your donation today.

Lions Clubs International Foundation is the charitable arm of Lions Clubs International, the largest service club organization in the world with 1.35 million members in 206 geographic areas and countries. Annually, the Foundation awards millions for disaster relief. The Foundation was ranked by a Financial
Times’ study as the number one non-governmental organization with which to partner. Learn more online at

SOURCE: Lions Clubs International Foundation

Nicole Brown

or Carissa Poroko

both of LCIF


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