The devastating 8.9-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami that rocked Japan on March 11th has wiped entire towns off the map, claimed over 10,000 lives and caused ongoing dangers to at least three nuclear power plants. Analysts say that recovery costs could reach $180 billion, and so far, donations to Japan have been a lot lower than those to other countries faced with recent natural disasters. The Japanese people need our help.
You can’t exactly hop on a plane and fly over there, and packing up those extra canned goods and cast-off clothing just isn’t an efficient way to help. So what can you do? Here are 11 ways to send vital medical assistance, emergency shelter, animal rescue teams and much more directly to the affected areas.
1. Donate directly to Japan’s Red Cross: Google has made it easy to cut out the middleman and ensure that your donation funds can be put to good use as soon as possible. Donate directly to the Japanese Red Cross Society on Google’s Crisis Response page.
2. Help send medical personnel and supplies: Doctors Without Borders, a nonprofit medical organization, has expanded its team in Japan, working in mobile clinics in inaccessible areas where the roads have been destroyed. You can help in their relief efforts by donating at DoctorsWithoutBorders.org.
3. Help send emergency shelters, tools and cooking supplies: When you donate to UK-based organization ShelterBox, your money is going toward a waterproof trunk containing a disaster relief tent, blankets, toys, tools, a cookstove and cooking supplies. $1,000 pays for a whole box, or you can pitch in towards one; either way, you get the number of the box you paid for so you can track it on the ShelterBox website and see exactly where it goes.
4. Help rescue displaced animals: Let’s not forget the millions of animals that have been injured or made homeless by the disaster. Animal Refuge Kansai, The Japan Cat Network and World Vets are among the organizations that are currently working to rescue as many animals as possible and they need funds for treatment, food and housing. See this page at PetCaptain.com for more information.
5. Find other legitimate charities: Make sure your money is well-spent by donating to established charities with a real presence in Japan rather than any new charities popping up in the aftermath of the disaster. Charity Navigator has a list of charities rated by efficiency which are currently providing food, fresh water and other forms of relief to earthquake victims.
6. Donate via text message: The American Red Cross is making it easy to donate simply by pushing a few buttons on your cell phone. Text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10. You can also text JAPAN or QUAKE to 80888 to donate to the Salvation Army, or TSUNAMI to 20222 to donate to the Save the Children Federation, which has teams within 80 miles of the nuclear reactor at Fukushima to meet the needs of affected children. Sprint and Verizon Wireless have waived texting fees for text donations.
7. Donate through iTunes: If you have an iTunes gift card or just want another easy to way to send money, Apple has set up a donation page directly in the iTunes store. Click this link to open the donation page in iTunes and give anywhere from $5 to $200.
8. Donate on Facebook: Yet another easy way to donate is through the American Red Cross Facebook ‘Causes’ page. The project aims to raise $25,000 over Facebook, and allows you to donate $10 to $500.
9. Donate your airline miles: The American Red Cross accepts donated airline miles from Continental, Delta and United airlines to fly relief volunteers and staff to disaster areas. American Airlines is also offering bonus miles to members of its AAdvantage rewards program when they donate to the Red Cross, giving members 250 bonus miles for a $50 donation and 500 bonus miles for a donation of $100 or more.
10. Add donation links to your website: Insert a little snippet of code into your website to put a plea for help front and center in the form of a red bar at the top of the page. The Hello Bar can be set to appear for a brief period when visitors first reach your site and hide itself afterward, and the message and colors are customizable. Mashable has the code and an easy tutorial.
11. Spread the word: Encourage others to help out, too by spreading the word about the disaster through social media. Tweet about it, provide links to charities and information on Facebook, or share this article with friends and family. Twitter has published a list of hashtags to help filter search results including #JPQuake, #japan and #TSUNAMI (scroll down for English.)