At the invitation of the Japanese Red Cross, American Red Cross President & CEO Gail McGovern spent four days traveling the affected areas of Japan, meeting with survivors and learning how American donations have been and will in the future be put to use in support of the country's relief and recovery efforts.
“It has been very gratifying for me to see the generosity of our country first hand and the impact that it is having,” she said as she finished a visit to Japan. “Despite all of the destruction that we witnessed, it’s really quite amazing to know that you are part of an organization, a movement, around the world that can make a difference.”
To date, the American Red Cross has provided more than $103 million to the Japanese Red Cross and other humanitarian partners, making it one of the largest private, international contributors to the response.
Within days after the tsunami, donations made to the American Red Cross began supporting relief efforts in the more than 2,000 evacuation shelters scattered across the devastated coastal communities as well as the Japanese Red Cross medical operation, which has included nearly 600 teams providing professional-level care.
Within the first month, donations to the American Red Cross also had helped outfit nearly 3,000 pre-fabricated houses with six electrical appliances each. In the coming months, the Japanese government plans to construct more than 72,000 of these 320-square-foot, temporary homes wherever land in available, including playing fields on school campuses. The Red Cross will equip each house with a package of household items, including a stove, refrigerator and washing machine, which will help an estimated 280,000 people resume normal activities and jump start their recovery.
As of April 25, the American Red Cross had raised more than $187 million for the Japan earthquake and Pacific tsunami response. This figure includes more than $4.5 million in text donations. Following McGovern’s return to the U.S., the American Red Cross intends to make an additional contribution to support a variety of immediate relief and early recovery programs she witnessed first hand. Other installments will follow as pledges are fulfilled and donations are received.
“This is the third time in just three years that I have gone into earthquake zones, and no matter how often I do this, I am never going to get used to it,” McGovern said. “It’s actually difficult to get your head around the extent of the destruction. Everything is in shreds. And then suddenly you’ll see a doll, a kid’s bicycle or a tea cup, and then the devastation becomes more real and more personal.”
This is McGovern's first visit to the disaster zone following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. In her nearly three years as president and CEO of the American Red Cross, she also traveled to Haiti and China following catastrophic earthquakes there.
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