Why

I had to do something. I still feel as helpless as I did when I noticed the first tweet late Thursday night about an earthquake in Japan. As I watched CNN on tv and streamed NHK on my iPad, all I could muster to say was "this cannot be real". I have friends and 'adopted' family scattered throughout Japan. I have been all through the country and have lost count of how many times I have visited. There are areas in Japan where I feel more at home than anywhere else. Period. To see this 'second home' suffering and me unable to reach many of them, the feeling of helplessness only grew.

As I started receiving emails from people in Japan, I rejoiced and reflected on the losses. This seems so unimaginable. Images from TV seem to play out like a disaster movie. The realization that this horrendous disaster will take years to recover from hit quickly. My reflex was to give to the normal groups that typically go in and help. I had a revelation as I logged on to give that compelled me to wait for a minute—this disaster had a face unlike past tragedies I watched play out on TV—I KNEW people there!

The revelation—ask people there, in Japan, where it needed to go. Japan is not a third-world country. It has the benefits of infrastructure, experience and knowledge in dealing with disasters. They would know better how to help their people than an outside agency. So ask them. And I did. Once I had their insight, I knew I needed to share this with as many as I could, so SOGO Japan was formed.

SOGO Japan, short for the Japanese phrase "sogo-fujo", which is a deeply rooted practice in the close-knit Japanese community. The simple concept of everyone looking after the community is a reciprocal concept that assistance is not a one-sided occurrence. One act of giving, leads to another and so forth. It preserves the notion of human dignity by relating that a person or community in need today may be in a position to help another tomorrow. SOGO Japan's mission is simple: deliver funds via contributions made by individuals DIRECTLY to organizations in Japan. For sustainability and accountability, I established a Donor Advised Fund at the Athens Area Community Foundation. The SOGO Japan Fund will begin making grants immediately and will also set aside a portion of donations for a permanent endowment. The endowment will earn interest, ensuring that funds for grants are available in perpetuity. SOGO Japan's Japanese advisors will help determine which organizations receive funds. They are assisting at all levels to help vet and research worthy organizations.





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