OAKLAND — Two organizations based in Northern California, Japan Pacific Resource Network (JPRN), a Japan-U.S. educational nonprofit organization, and Eclipse Rising, a grassroots community organization for Zainichi Korean community development, launched Japan Multicultural Relief Fund (JMRF) on March 12 in the immediate aftermath of the Tohoku earthquake to support survivors from underrepresented and isolated minority communities.
To date, they have made a total of $44,435.34 in grants to minority community organizations in the disaster-struck region.
JMRF is an autonomous, volunteer-run grantmaking project housed in JPRN. Target constituents are survivors who routinely face barriers to relief services and resources due to their linguistic and cultural isolation, class, ethnicity, or nationality and immigration status. JMRF is endorsed by Peace Development Fund (PDF), a 30-year-old peace and human rights philanthropic foundation based in the U.S.
JMRF is known as a social justice-oriented fund, and has been receiving the support of allies sharing the value of diversity, such as the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. In order to secure more equitable distribution of relief and recovery aid to minority communities, JMRF is working closely with organizations both in Japan and the U.S. that envision Japan’s recovery based on human rights and a multicultural integration framework.
JMRF is also engaged in partnership exploration with nuclear power plant workers, the overwhelming majority of whom are recruited from poor, marginalized communities, and local farmers and residents in Fukushima and neighboring prefectures who continue to suffer from nuclear radiation.
Tax-deductible charitable contributions made to JMRF via JPRN are distributed to carefully selected partner organizations in Japan that support constituents of marginalized, low-income and ethnic minority backgrounds. As of May 23, JMRF has sent 500,000 yen (approximately $6,348) to each of the seven recipient organizations that directly support foreign residents, migrant workers, single-parent households, the homeless, elders with dementia, and children with disabilities in the disaster-struck regions.
A donor and volunteer of JMRF, Miyuki Yoshimura, a native of Japan and current Bay Area resident, emphasizes the unique importance of a fund dedicated to minority relief in Japanese society, known for its historical and widespread discomfort with foreigners and “those who are different.”
“I was impressed by JMRF amidst xenophobic rumors exploding on the Internet, cautioning against ‘suspicious’ non-Japanese,” she said. “Ironically, such scapegoating totally negates the fact that Japanese and non-Japanese residents are actually helping each other like never before in the aftermath of the tragedy, and survivors are harnessing real opportunities for historically hostile neighbors to come together.”
“Now that we have successfully wired immediate relief grants to our partner organizations, we look forward to shifting our focus towards supporting the recovery efforts for the long haul,” says Miho Kim, co-founder of Eclipse Rising and former board member of JPRN. “Through our partnership with the organizations on the ground with most intimate knowledge of the needs of their underrepresented constituencies, our multilingual and multicultural proficiency, and access to these communities, JMRF can help provide a unique platform for the often isolated minority voices to be heard at the table.”
JMRF posts weekly updates on its activities and news on minority survivors on its website and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=153457011380669).
NPO –Woori Hakkyo
Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan (SMJ)
Zainichi no Ianfu Saiban wo Sasaeru Kai
Single Mother Forum
Community Life Support Center’s Tohoku Kanto Earthquake Support Network