Disaster 'aid' Japan doesn’t want

By Scott R Dixon

Although it has been more than two and a half years since the devastating earthquake and tsunami struck northeastern Japan, much of the area is still in need of disaster aid for the recovery efforts. But before you look around your house for items to donate, take a look at what volunteer groups, local governments and aid recipients themselves would rather you keep at home. And you might be very surprised to what else Twitter users have deemed the most “unnecessary things at a disaster zone.”

Paper cranes

The well-known Japanese tradition of folding 1,000 origami paper cranes to grant a wish may provide comfort in times of catastrophe, but with so many paper cranes sent to shelters, schools and local governments, Twitter users said that a lot of these gifts had to be thrown away. One person said that after running out of places to hang the birds, the rest were incinerated. It’s a nice gesture, but seriously, how many bits of origami can one region possibly need?

Dirty clothes

Another big complaint was the amount of dirty, used clothes donated to survivors who had lost everything. Some said that they even received “very obviously used” underwear and bras. Also, volunteers who sorted the many boxes that came in also asked that you leave your “ancient” and out-of-season clothing at home. There just is not enough space to store your Edo era geta apparently.

Obsolete technology

Helping out people who have just lived through a traumatic experience should not be an excuse to get rid of your 1995 laptop and accompanying floppy disks. One Japanese netizen talked about receiving a donation box in the mail, only to discover an unusable analogue TV without a remote. They also were lucky enough to get an 60 Hz alarm clock that cannot keep time in their part of Japan due to the different power grids.

Packages in foreign languages

While mostly everyone said they were thankful for all the support given from around the world, a lot of netizens shared how many aid recipients threw away some of the food, medicine and supplements in foreign packages. Without any Japanese translation and not knowing the language, a lot of people were concerned not knowing the ingredients or expiration date.

Questionable food

Again, the message seems quite clear to not use a disaster to clean out your house, and especially not your pantry. A lot of people recalled receiving dirty and dented canned goods that were past their expiration date, or handmade items like a shipment of 500 rice balls that quickly went bad.


If you are not a doctor, you should probably refrain from sending medicine or supplements to people with medical needs in a disaster zone. A lot of the medicine was expired and one person said they received a huge amount of tranquilizers that they did not even need.

Heavy things

Time and space is precious after a disaster and sorting through donations is a huge task. Having to lug around boxes of 30-year-old diet books, autographed baseballs from not-so-famous players or elementary school backpacks is not the best use of volunteers’ time.

Plastic bags

One person said that they once got two boxes full of used plastic grocery bags. The bags were very neatly folded and clean, but utterly useless and ended up sitting in the corner before being thrown away.

24/7 News

This is not so much a physical item, but after endless hours of news covering the disaster’s aftermath, a lot of netizens said they wish the networks would “donate” something a little more entertaining. Many of the volunteers, workers and survivors felt like the self-imposed “restraint” from any form of entertainment made TV much less of a “gift” and more of a burden. Some found solace in watching recorded shows from their happier pre-3/11 world as well as movies to escape their daily sadness.

Too many volunteers

This may sound like biting the hand that feeds you, but some local governments and volunteer groups would prefer for some people to stay home and help out in more useful ways like donating blood or raising money. It seems like some volunteers would spend a great deal of money traveling to help, only to leave after a short time. This left a lot of local groups wondering if the volunteers’ time and money could have been better spent on localized disaster relief.

A lot of the people who received the less-than stellar donations ultimately thought that the thought behind the gift was heartfelt, but they just future “thoughts” could be a little lighter. One netizen put it this way, “If you don’t consult with the people you are donating to, your donation will likely become just another box taking up space.”

Are there any other tips to share about what we shouldn’t donate after a catastrophe? Hopefully with these tips and yours, we can save disaster zone workers from coming across someone’s dirty panties or that busted up tin of sardines from 1950!

Source: Togetter

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- U.S. Tops Japan Earthquake Donor List -- How Your Old Videogames, Books and CDs Could Help Educate a Child -- How to survive an earthquake (or zombie outbreak)

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Pretty awful article, it is sneering and I don't think it paints a completely accurate picture of the amount of good stuff that gets done. I do agree that it is important to get an understanding of the goal first, and local agreement, before embarking on any project. The time for huge numbers of volunteers to help cleanup I think has passed, and rebuilding is now the work in progress. As kind hearted as it is for volunteers to queue up to help out with projects here and there, PLEASE make sure that you are not taking a job from a local builder, etc, who may be having a hard time re-establishing their business due to the huge amount of free labour. Also, when you are there, find the local shop run by locals to buy your daily goods and spend lots there. Get their economy going again (please).

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Reading this article gives me the impression that these people are too snobby to receive intended goodwill from donators. Ok sure used underwear and expired goods should not have been donated in the first place, but gees I wonder they would still complain if a usable TV was given without a remote.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Basic necessities such as food are good if they can be delivered where they're needed in the hours and days following a disaster. After a few weeks though, money is the most helpful aid. Dealing with the storage and disposal of unnecessary or unusable aid is an unfortunate added logistical headache for them to deal with. I think more people should be made aware of this. It will enable those who want to help to be more helpful.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Money, as mentioned above, is the most helpful, but please be careful to deal with only reputable agencies. One of my Japanese friends worked very hard with a group to raise funds for abandoned pets in Fukushima, and raised quite a lot of money which they sent to a charity in Tohoku. Guess what ... the money never arrived, and nobody knows what came of it. Stuff like this does seem to happen quite a lot even in "honest, safety Japan" but doesn't get officially reported very much.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

All these suggestions sound like well-intentioned tips. Although like the previous poster said, money donation is very dangerous in these types of scenarios. As one can tell from reading JT, scammers are just as prevalent as real charity organizations. Be careful with your financial contributions and read all of the "fine print" details.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

People need to remember that some of the donators of these items are elderly people with not much themselves. Their heart is in the right place and they truly believe the items they donate are worth something or could be put to good use. Beauty, and by inference utility, is in the eye of the beholder

I agree about the paper cranes though. Not really much of a donation and nothing but a "feel good" for the donator.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

basically don't send stuff you wouldn't want. Perishable goods, dirty or used clothes, broken and outdated equipment, heavy books...

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Old story, they got with out off-seadioning clothing as people saw them as a cheap way to dump clothing.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

When the Indian Ocean tsunami hit Indonesia, Thailand and Sri Lanka in 2004, there were so many donations that our NGOs were having tough time sorting the items, to look for something that can actually be used. I do agree, some people just dumped their old clothes, some of it are torn or too old, without batting their eyelids. My friend and I contacted one of the NGO operating in Aceh and asked them what to give, before we head to the nearest hypermarket to buy those items. Not many people would have the common sense, and some just give anything they feels that should help, even though it may not. I remembered last time, there was an article about some of the clothes donated just can't be used because of climate inappropriate

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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