Help me help them!
March 14, 2011 9:33 PM   Subscribe

How can I help Japan when I am broke :(

I'm really upset over the disaster in Japan and want to help out, but I'm a college student and *just* paid the last of my tuition last week, which means I'm incredibly broke right now. I literally have less than $100 in my bank account.

I've donated $10 to the Red Cross, but I don't feel like it's enough. I really want to make a difference. !@#$%^&$#!! If only I was a millionaire! I'd give bunches of money!!

Is there anything I can do that doesn't involve money? I'm on spring break, so I've got time. And willingness! But that's all I've got. :(

Basically, for the past two days or so, I've been blogging about the disaster and compiling info on ways people can help (mostly donation options and campaigns). I've also been pretty active on twitter and helping share info between people. I have a contact in Japan who's given me info that I've passed along. But tbh, it's really been minimal, and I want to do something more.

I'm hoping that once I get back on campus, I can start organizing some kind of fundraiser or food drive. However, I've never done such a thing before. (I could get advice from one of my teachers, perhaps, who has run fundraisers every year for 3 years.) Second Harvest Japan needs food and supplies for instance, which I'd love to try to collect. But they also require to ship the supplies at your own expense, which will probably be ridiculously expensive.

I even thought about folding 1000 paper cranes and selling them for $1 to people around campus and donating the $1000 to Second Harvest or the Red Cross. But folding 1000 paper cranes will take FOREVER. Some people have said it's taken them 2 months! That's too long D:<

SO: 1. What are some ways that I can help, despite being broke and 2. What are some good fundraising ideas, that actually work?

Thank you!!
posted by joyeuxamelie to Human Relations (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Why is doing the crane project going to take too long? Do you think the whole situation will be cleaned up and back to normal in two months?

There's always a ton of emergency help and money donations when a disaster occurs. And by two months later usually most people have completely forgotten about it. You could change that pattern with this project, which sounds lovely.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:38 PM on March 14, 2011 [5 favorites]

Give blood at the Red Cross?
posted by bluedaisy at 9:45 PM on March 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

The Crane Project sounds like a really great idea. It's even got a catchy name. I would certainly buy one! Could you maybe get stacks of recycled newspaper from the day of the earthquake and tsunamis and fold them out of the newspaper headlines? That would be very beautiful and poetic. I bet you could get one of your campus organizations involved, too-- look for a Sociology Club, a Social Work club, an Amnesty International club, a Red Cross Club or maybe some of the chuch groups. Any of them would I'm sure be interested in helping you promote disaster relief, and that's a really great and creative idea.
posted by WidgetAlley at 9:48 PM on March 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

I'm participating in Help Japan, a livejournal based fundraising effort. It's fandom based, so most people are writing fanfiction or drawing art based on various books, t.v. shows and movies, but there are also people contributing original writing and art, making food, jewelry, crafts etc. Basically people offer something - fanfic, cupcakes, whatever - and other people make bids with all of the money from the winning bids going to the Red Cross or related charities.
posted by shaun uh at 9:54 PM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I really like the Crane Project idea. I think you should try to get hooked up with one of the existing service groups on campus and do it as a fundraiser on a designated day a few weeks from now for maximum impact. You will need people to help you make cranes, advertise and then man stations around campus selling the cranes. Are you connected to a group? If not are any of your friends? This seems like the kind of thing that sports groups or Greek groups would be very good at and would have the manpower to pull off.

You could also see if there's a Japanese-American student group and ask them if they need volunteers. They will almost certainly be doing something.
posted by fshgrl at 9:58 PM on March 14, 2011

Response by poster: @shaun uh; I'm helping there too! In the graphics section ^__^v
posted by joyeuxamelie at 10:11 PM on March 14, 2011

You may not be able to help with this disaster, but if you get involved and trained in Search and Rescue, you will be incredibly valuable in the next disaster. Because the sad truth is, there will always be a "next" disaster.
posted by ErikaB at 10:13 PM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Happy hour! My favorite charity does this all the time. Basically get a local bar to agree that the cover for the night will be donated to japan and get the bar to offer drink specials...then spread the word on campus...We raise thousands of dollars this way.
posted by bananafish at 10:22 PM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm sure you could find people to help with the Crane Project. I made 1000 cranes at one point for my own reasons, and I got to the point where I could make 100 in a night blindfolded if provoked. I folded watching TV, I folded riding the bus - anytime my hands didn't have something else to do, I was folding. I could do it in the dark. I could do it behind my back. (I tried all these things.) I don't think the cranes took me more than a month total. So if you found 10 like-minded friends, or a campus club or service organization to pose as your friends, you could easily do this within a week. If you found 20, you could put together a crane-a-thon and do it in a day.
posted by troublesome at 10:37 PM on March 14, 2011

I've done the 1000 cranes thing too and the longest part was making the pieces of paper square because I didn't have a commercial paper cutter. I like your idea a lot and think it would give a lot of people a small way to contribute and allow a little catharsis for many people who don't realize they need it.

Japan will need long term help probably much more than short term help. The lasting impact to its economy and infrastructure is going to be huge. You can help in lots of ways months down the line when people have moved on to the next big disaster somewhere else, by blogging reliable, factual, well-written and easily-digested information about the rebuilding and the continuing efforts from within the country. So saying that two months from now is too far away is the wrong perspective to have. By helping to fight misinformation and keeping the long term problems in the forefront of your readers' minds, you'll help in myriad ways.
posted by Mizu at 10:54 PM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Crane Project is a great idea - lots of people will want to be involved.
posted by mleigh at 12:09 AM on March 15, 2011

The other thing about the crane idea is that you can ask for $1 in return, but I'm sure most people would readily give a lot more than that, so that'd actually add up pretty quickly. Even if they've already donated on their own, the work you put into it will probably inspire people to give you a little more money for your effort.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 12:25 AM on March 15, 2011

If you have any friends that play in bands it is pretty easy to organise a benefit show. We put one on last week for Christchurch and raised $1400 which was a great return for a couple hours organising work.
posted by mhjb at 1:18 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm not trying to rain on your great intentions but it may be that Japan doesn't need money:
Japan is a wealthy country which is responding to the disaster, among other things, by printing hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of new money. Money is not the bottleneck here: if money is needed, Japan can raise it.
The writer recommends giving to organizations like Doctors Without Borders instead.
posted by davcoo at 2:27 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

You could have people pay $1 for the paper square, and then show them how to make their own crane.
posted by oceano at 7:22 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was in a similar situation when Hurricane Mitch hit causing catastrophic damages in Nicaragua and Honduras. I got together with about 3 friends and we made some signs and flyers that we put up around campus advertising that we would be coming around the dorms on a certain date to gather change as a fund raiser. We also put up the 5 gallon water jugs in the cafeteria that people could put money into as donations. We ended up raising almost $1,000 for the Red Cross in a few days just from the spare change college students had sitting around in their dorms. All of us were in the same poor student boat, but having everyone chip in a little made a difference when it all came together.
posted by Palmcorder Yajna at 7:29 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The paper crane idea is an amazing one, and I am about to leave tomorrow for a very large, four-day national conference of art educators. Following oceano's idea, I'm going to set up a table to sell the paper for $1/sheet and teach them how to make their own. Joyeuxamelie, you can consider yourself personally responsible for the funds that are raised, because I never would have gotten this idea without this thread, and that is how you've helped!
posted by ella_minnow at 7:51 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've read over and over again that Japan has it covered.

My suggestion: Help others locally. If you're stirred by the tragedy seen in news footage, you may want to look at the tragedies happening in your local city streets every night. You may not be able to help those across the world, but there's plenty you could do to help those right next door.
posted by toekneebullard at 12:54 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

toekneebullard absolutely has it. There are so many needy people and organisations right on our own doorsteps who need help NOW. It's not sexy or exciting and you won't feel involved in a big drama, but you will be fulfilling that very human need to connect with and support others in times of crisis. Good for you for caring, turn it into positive action!
posted by freya_lamb at 1:59 PM on March 15, 2011

Speaking as a resident of Japan, we appreciate your desire to help, but as toekneebullard and freya_lamb note, money is not an issue.

If you were actually in Japan you could volunteer to help with the cleanup effort over the next several months, but since you appear to be in the US, I recommend you help out with something local. Donating blood or volunteering would definitely benefit your local community aid organization, which will (indirectly) allow international aid organizations working in Japan to focus more resources on the cleanup and resettling of evacuees.
posted by armage at 6:36 AM on March 19, 2011

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