Preparing for Phase II

On Saturday, October 8, Socks for Japan will embark on its first Phase II distribution, to Ishinomaki. Phase I ran from March 13 to July 7. Phase II will run from October 1, 2011 to March 12, 2012. Sunday, March 11, 2012 will mark the one-year anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami.

As the situation in the disaster zone has changed, so, too, will our pace and goals during Phase II. The critical need stage of the disaster is over, for which we can all be thankful. The worst of the wreckage is cleared, most survivors are living in a semi-permanent situation instead of on the floor of a gymnasium or other makeshift shelter, and companies are buying land or otherwise making arrangements to rebuild.

However, the psychological problems we knew would become the main issue have indeed done so. The acute phase is one of physical needs: food, water, clothing, shelter. Concentrating on those makes it easy to momentarily ignore all that’s been lost. Once the displaced hundreds of thousands of people find themselves sitting alone in temporary housing boxes, day after day, contemplating the fact that life will never return to how it was before, depression is common.

That’s dangerous anywhere, but especially so in a country where 30,000 people have taken their own lives each year for more than a decade. The economy’s seemingly permanent funk has made daily life tough. The loss of family members, homes, vehicles, jobs, and wealth on top of it is proving too much for many survivors to bear — and leaders at Izoku Shien, a Japanese suicide support group, and other organizations fear a dramatic rise in the suicide rate.

Therefore, Socks for Japan will focus on taking more time to distribute fewer socks per trip while visiting fewer locations each time. In Phase I, we wanted to reach as many people as quickly as possible to be sure they had warm socks and knew that the world cared. In Phase II, we’ll sit and talk with people longer to hear their stories and comfort them. Instead of taking 8,000 pairs of socks and care letters per trip, we’ll take 2,000.

We’re almost ready. We sent email confirmations to everybody who contributed socks and included their email address on or in the package. After distributing 157,085 pairs of socks and letters in Phase I, we have the following number ready to go now:

6,200 Men
1,100 Women
5,300 Boys
5,000 Girls
3,300 Babies

Over the past three months, we received about 2,000 pairs more. That’s an estimate, as they’re still in boxes at our receiving area. If anybody would like to help with further donations, please note that we need no more socks for children. We need adult socks only, especially for women.

The reason our inventory of children’s socks is enough is that there are few children in survivor areas. Most have long since gone to the homes of relatives and are cared for by those relatives. The socks we have on hand should be enough for our survivor school events. I’ll send notice if they’re not.

So far, Socks for Japan’s supporters have been attentive to our needs, surprising aid groups who’ve monitored our activity and expected us to be overrun with inventory. We haven’t been because our supporters pay attention to our requests, and stop sending when we ask them to do so. We will not conclude this fabulous effort with tens of thousands of unused donations. Every pair of socks we receive will find its way to needy feet, and every letter to a needy heart.

You may be interested in our expenses for Phase I. Using an average exchange rate of 81 yen per dollar:

$4,228 vehicle rentals
$3,632 fuel
$1,134 press-seal bags, trash bags, other supplies
$770 food and drink for volunteers
$188 photocopies
$175 highway tolls
$123 phone
$35 other
$10,285 total

That came to 7 cents per pair of socks distributed, not including the cost of buying and shipping them — which our donors generously funded. We think 7 cents per hand-delivered care package is very efficient. Among the many ways we economized, the most impressive is the $3,000 we saved in highway tolls by applying for and receiving passes from municipal governments. We just discovered that the initial end date of that program, September 10, has been extended to December 10, so we’ll continue saving money this way for a while longer. Fingers crossed that they’ll extend it again.

Thank you to everybody who contribued funds to us. It helped tremendously.

Over the past three months, the Socks for Japan volunteers caught up on work at their regular jobs, and kept in touch with our survivor contacts in the disaster zone to know what we would face in Phase II. The situation is better, but it’s not yet good enough.

The March 11 earthquake and tsunami are mostly absent in world news by now. The following four photos from our May 29 distribution in Minami Sanriku will remind you of the reason so many survivors in the disaster zone still need our help. It’s because people like these:

Little red survivor girl in Minami Sanriku

One survivor happy to receive socks in Minami Sanriku

barely survived devastation like this:

Devastated apartment area in Minami Sanriku

Siena among the rubble of Minami Sanriku

and need every friend in the world they can get. So get ready, friends. Phase II is about to begin and we’re glad you’re part of it. To learn more about our program, please visit Socks for Japan.

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  1. Eileen Delaney
    Posted October 22, 2011 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    We are having a Girl Scout event about Japan on Feb18 2012. I was thinking of asking the girls to donate socks- would that be too late for Phase II?

  2. Kathy Sakamoto
    Posted October 18, 2011 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    Amazingly good accounting!
    Congrats on all the good work.
    I think we can find some socks that women might like – or they can use!
    Ok! gambaro! Mata yoroshiku onegaishimasu!



  3. Desiree
    Posted September 30, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    Dear Jason and Socks For Japan Team –
    Thank you for the update and thank you for your commitment to the survivors. Your intention to spend time listening to and comforting people – and just being there for them – is going to be very powerful.
    I hope our parcel from Rockdale reached you. God bless you all. With love from,
    Desiree and the students and staff at Rockdale

  4. Fancy
    Posted September 29, 2011 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

    I intend to contribute more this round but I didn’t receive a confirmation email as you mentioned so I think the parcel has been lost, it’s a v tiny parcel but my 5 years has used up his piggy bank and write small note with all his heart…I know you are doing an amazing job and I don’t need a confirm letter but just wonder which way to send to be safe.

  5. gaijinwife
    Posted September 29, 2011 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    your an inspiration, you truly are. xxx

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