First volunteers to start Habitat for Humanity response operation in Japan

ATLANTA (May 2, 2011) –Twelve Habitat for Humanity volunteers from universities across Japan are travelling to Ofunato, in Iwate Prefecture, to assist families affected by the March 11, 2011 earthquake. The trip is part of Habitat’s response operation in Japan.

The Habitat volunteers will pull out wet floor insulation, tatami mats (traditional Japanese flooring) and clear mud from dozens of houses in Ofunato so that families can return home from evacuation centers. The volunteer effort is expected to be the first of many, according to Rick Hathaway, Habitat for Humanity International’s Asia-Pacific vice president.

“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,” Hathaway said. “We need your donations to make sure Habitat can help more families.”

Iwate prefecture, about 310 miles north of Tokyo, is one of the three areas most affected by the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck the country on March 11. Ofunato had a thriving fishing industry until a tsunami with waves up to 76 feet high wiped everything away. Nearly 300 people were killed and approximately 3,500 homes destroyed.

Habitat for Humanity is working in both Iwate and Miyagi prefectures alongside partners, like All Hands Volunteers, to deliver their response operation and provide volunteers for clean-up and housing repair activities to help affected families to return to their homes.

The earthquake struck 81 miles east of Sendai, Japan, and this, plus the subsequent tsunami, wrought massive destruction along the Pacific coastline of Japan’s northern islands. The extent of the disaster is still unfolding as radiation caused by explosions from nuclear plants damaged by the earthquake and tsunami continues to hamper relief efforts in the region.

Iwate prefecture is north of the badly damaged Fukushima nuclear power plants and the surrounding area that has been evacuated.

About Habitat for Humanity International
Habitat for Humanity International is an ecumenical Christian ministry that welcomes to its work all people dedicated to the cause of eliminating poverty housing. Since its founding in 1976, Habitat has built, rehabilitated, repaired or improved more than 400,000 houses worldwide, providing simple, decent and affordable shelter for more than two million people. 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 has developed close working relationships with Japanese government entities and is currently operating tsunami clean-up and recovery programs in Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture, Japan.