Tohoku Kanto Earthquake: Letter to the membership

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Kevin Cleary, NPO JALT President

24 March 2011

Dear JALT members,

People all over the world are saddened by the disastrous effects of the Tohoku Kanto earthquake and the resulting tsunami of March 11, 2011. The consequent problems at the nuclear power plant site in Fukushima are, at the time of writing, still very unclear and the possible long-term effects of radiation exposure loom in the minds of those of us in Japan and our friends and family members worldwide. Our hearts and prayers go out to all those affected by these terrible events.

Amidst all the bad news, the disasters have shown the world that patience, civility, and perseverance are three fundamental traits of Japanese people, and that these character traits survive even when being tested under unthinkable conditions. I have just returned from the TESOL Convention in New Orleans, and I can’t count how many people there expressed their deep sympathy for victims of the disasters in Japan, and then showed me faces glowing with admiration for the way the Japanese people have acted in the face of this mounting tragedy.

I am very proud of how JALT members and the JALT Central Office have responded to this crisis. The Board of Directors first gathered as much information and ideas for action as we could from each other and from officers and members of JALT. We then contacted as many of the 254 current or recent members in Aomori, Ibaraki, Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima prefectures as possible. So far, the response has been incredibly uplifting. Not only have we received good news of the safety of the members of our JALT family, but our members have also displayed their own incredible courage, empathy, and good humor despite the circumstances that surround them.  Some of the replies to our inquiries include: 

“Thank you for the email and your concern. My family and I are doing well. In return, if you need any help from me, just say the word.” 

“I’m safe, in an evacuation centre in Yagiyama, helping out.”

“I am from Ibaraki chapter. I am OK although my apartment is not.”

“Thank you for the concern. I am one of the fortunate ones.”

“Now we are scared of big aftershocks and leaking radiation, but we are really thankful that we are alive.”

I’m also glad to report that, as per JALT’s nature as a decentralized, grassroots-oriented organization, many discrete parts of JALT are responding to the crisis with empathy and ingenuity. For example, the Shinshu Chapter has offered to organize offers of shelter for evacuees, and from their example I am sure many other Chapters will do so as well. The Pan-SIG organizers have decided to implement a number of fundraising plans in connection with their conference. The JALT Chapters in the most affected areas are also contacting their members to find out their status and what can be done for them.

In the months and years ahead we will continue to do our best to help those in northeastern Japan recover from this disaster. After we learn of their needs we will respond in a way that uses our resources as an association of language teachers in the most effective manner. Teacher training, materials provision, and volunteer teaching are a few ways that we may deploy our resources. With your help we will find many more ways to employ our most precious asset: our members.

At this time I would urge you to please check our primary information page on the crisis, <>, and send a message to us at <> if you have any information or suggestions on how we can respond to this crisis.

All of us on the Board really appreciate everyone taking heart and doing their best to help JALT members do whatever they can to alleviate suffering and assist in the recovery efforts. Thank you very much for your generosity and continued support. 

With gratitude and best wishes,

Kevin Cleary

President, NPO JALT