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Habitat for Humanity starts clean-up and house repair activity in Japan

May 2, 2011

First volunteers get to work in Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture

Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture, (April 28, 2011)
– The first Habitat for Humanity volunteers are repairing houses and clearing away debris in Ofunato, northern Iwate Prefecture, marking the start of the international charity’s response operation in Japan.

Twelve volunteers, aged 20 – 22, from university campuses across Japan, have given up their ‘Golden Week’ national holiday time to pull out wet floor insulation, tatami mats (traditional Japanese flooring) and clear mud from houses in badly affected Ofunato.

“I wanted to do more than just watch devastating pictures on TV, so I am here to do what I can to help Japan recover. Only by visiting Ofunato and working with the people affected does the situation feel real. All I see is broken houses and it’s hard to know where to begin, but we will do it one step at a time. If the work I do here means that just one family can leave an evacuation centre and return home, it will be worth it”, said Haruka Saki, 20, a volunteer from Waseda University in Tokyo.

Ofunato, in northern Iwate Prefecture, about 500 km. north of Tokyo, is one of the three areas most affected by the devastating earthquake and tsunami on 11 March. Ofunato had a thriving fishing industry until tsunami waves, up to 23.6 m. (76-ft.) high, wiped thousands of houses away, and killed nearly 300 people.

Habitat for Humanity will be working in both Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures alongside partners, like All Hands Volunteers, to deliver their response operation; providing volunteers for clean-up and housing repair activity, and helping affected families to return to their homes. At a later stage, Habitat may also be involved in distributing ‘home starter’ kits to families moving in to temporary shelter.

Rick Hathaway, Habitat for Humanity International’s Asia-Pacific vice president, added: “With its focus on shelter, Habitat for Humanity is working with partners in Japan to provide volunteers, tools, and financial support to get families out of evacuation centers and back to their homes, so they can regain some normalcy and piece their lives back together. We need your donations to make sure Habitat can help more families.”

Those interested in volunteering should email

To donate, please visit or

The 9.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Japan on Friday 11 March was the largest to ever hit Japan since recordings began. The earthquake created extremely large tsunami waves with heights over 20 meters (65 ft) that struck Japan minutes after the quake, in some cases travelling up to 10 km (6 miles) inland. Over 14,000 people died and 11,000 people are still missing.

The earthquake struck 130 km (81 miles) east of Sendai city, Japan, and this, plus the subsequent tsunami, wrought massive destruction along the Pacific coastline of Japan’s northern islands. A third, and still unfolding disaster, is nuclear radiation caused by explosions from nuclear plants damaged by the earthquake and tsunami.

About Habitat for Humanity International
Habitat for Humanity International is a Christian nonprofit organization dedicated to the cause of eliminating poverty housing. Since its founding in 1976, Habitat has built and renovated more than 400,000 homes worldwide. In Europe and Central Asia, Habitat works in 22 countries with partners, donors and volunteers from the region. For more information, or to donate or volunteer, visit

Habitat for Humanity Japan
Habitat for Humanity Japan is the Japanese chapter of Habitat for Humanity International. Each year, HFH Japan raises money and sends hundreds of volunteers overseas to help build and repair homes for low-income families. This is the first time that Habitat for Humanity Japan volunteers have given their support for clean-up activity and repair houses in their home country.

About All Hands Volunteers
All Hands Volunteers is a US-based non-profit organization that supports volunteers with housing, meals, tools and organized work to provide hands-on assistance to survivors of natural disasters around the world. All Hands Volunteers has developed close working relationships with the Japanese government entities.