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Emergency Warmth for 1,300 Families

  • March 8, 2012

$250,000 grant brings needed space heaters to displaced survivors

After spending three months living high school gym, Mr. Shiga was happy to find a temporary apartment in Sendai City. Then winter arrived. Like all apartments in Japan, Mr. Shiga’s had no central heating. Shivering under donated blankets, he turned on his computer and television to generate some warmth when the outside temperature dropped below freezing.

Mr. Shiga was not alone. Thousands of evacuees living in apartments lacked the funds to purchase space heaters and struggled daily for warmth.

Relief came in January when Mr. Shiga was among 1,300 families to receive electric space heaters funded by a $250,000 grant from AmeriCares. The grant, awarded to the Association for Aid and Relief in response to an emergency request from the Japanese government, covered the purchase of heaters for the displaced living in temporary apartments throughout the hard-hit Miyagi Prefecture.

In the temporary apartment in Tomiya, Mr. and Mrs. Shoji explained that because they receive little assistance outside of rent money, they were happy to receive the heater – their only source of warmth in the winter. With limited finances, they would be forced to live in their cold apartment if AmeriCares had not provided the heater.

Mr. and Mrs. Kawamura, also living in Tomiya, take comfort from the newfound warmth generated by their heater. The Kawamura’s home in Ogatsu was destroyed by tsunami waters. “Only our lives were saved,” Mrs. Kawamura says. “Nothing else.” Because they were left with nothing, the couple faced the challenge of needing everything. Without money, they have been forced to rely on donated goods such as the heater from AmeriCares. The elderly couple especially misses their hobbies—their lifelong home had vegetable and bonsai gardens.

The Kawamuras struggle with boredom and loneliness but now, at least, they are warm. And like Mr. Shiga, they look forward to spring, which they hope will bring more warmth and connections with friends, old and new.

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