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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Room in our hearts for Japan and Christchurch

Room in our hearts for Japan and Christchurch

Last updated 05:00 19/03/2011
Generous Kiwis are reaching into their pockets to help Japan and Christchurch, with charity experts saying we have enough room in our hearts and wallets for both.

As the world's attention is captured by the terrifying earthquake, tsunami and looming nuclear threat in Japan, there are fears the relief effort for Christchurch could take a back seat.

But we can afford to care about both, Fundraising New Zealand chief executive James Austin says.

"The large charities, the Red Crosses of the world, can handle them both. People will continue to give, and as New Zealanders we will do our best to help Japan as well as within our own country."

Japan, with the third-largest economy in the world, has not yet requested international humanitarian assistance, only asking for specific help from search and rescue teams. New Zealand has sent a team.

Many aid agencies have held off on starting appeals, accepting that Japan has the capacity to handle the disaster. This stands in contrast to the 2010 Haiti earthquake, where the developing country received immediate help.

But the Red Cross, Salvation Army and Save the Children are running international campaigns – with Kiwis donating $10,500 within two days, New Zealand Save the Children chief executive Liz Gibbs said.

Her organisation was asked to help by its Japanese branch. "They realised very quickly the severity of the situation, and children are always the most vulnerable. There are gaps that are not being addressed by the government, and that's what NGOs like Save the Children are for."

Globally, it was aiming to hit US$20 million.

The Red Cross has begun a Japan appeal alongside its Christchurch earthquake appeal. A spokeswoman said figures were not yet available from the Japan fund, but Christchurch aid yesterday topped $32m in donations.

The Government's Christchurch earthquake appeal has raised around $20m, with another $15m in pledged donations.

Appeal head Mark Weldon said the devastating events in Japan had made international fundraising efforts more difficult, and efforts would be pulled back slightly in sensitivity to Japan's horrific circumstances.

"I think what this means from a New Zealand perspective is that New Zealanders really need to put their shoulders to the wheel for Christchurch. The world's attention, with Japan, did move a lot quicker than it would have otherwise."

But he knew of international charity events scheduled for May, and expected the appeal to continue for months.

Meanwhile, Mr Austin is urging New Zealand charities to continue their regular appeals alongside any special Christchurch fundraisers.

Australian research after the Queensland floods showed people were willing to give to everyday causes alongside the natural disaster, he said.

"When there's a big disaster, like what has been happening in Christchurch, people give extra. A whole lot of people who don't give to charities will give, because they've been emotionally shocked by the earthquake."

- The Dominion Post

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