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Published in the Toronto Star on Fri Mar 11 2011

How Canadians can help victims of the Japan quake and tsunami.

Just hours after a devastating earthquake hit Japan, Canadians have already donated $77,000 to help victims.

The Canadian Red Cross is reaching out online and through social media to raise funds for victims of the catastrophic quake. The Canadian Red Cross says volunteers on the ground in Japan have been working around the clock to support local emergency-response efforts, including evacuation, search and rescue, and first aid. The organization has set up a webpage to handle donations specifically aimed at helping victims of the earthquake and tsunami. Donations can also be made by calling toll-free at 1-800-418-1111.

Rogers and Fido wireless customers can text ASIA to 30333 to donate $5 to earthquake relief efforts. Donations will go to the Canadian Red Cross Japan Earthquake/Asia-Pacific Tsunami fund and there is no charge for the text.

Médicins Sans Frontières says two teams of three people are trying to reach the worst-hit areas in Japan’s Iwate and Miyagi prefectures.

“The MSF teams, composed of medical and logistics personnel, will try to reach the area by helicopter,” said spokeswoman Naomi Sutorius-Lavoie in an email. “Once there, the two teams will liaise with local emergency-response authorities to assess medical needs. Another 25 MSF medical and logistical staff in Japan are on standby to respond once the situation has been assessed.”

UNICEF says it has already positioned supplies and personnel in countries throughout the Pacific region and is ready to provide assistance to those on tsunami watch.

Plan International Canada said it has an emergency-response team on standby in Indonesia, where it has a warehouse stocked with 5,000 family kits available for immediate distribution.

It has also deployed assessment teams to the Philippines, and staff is already starting to evacuate people from low-lying areas of the country, the organization said Friday.

World Vision Canada has also set up a webpage to solicit donations to provide disaster relief for victims of the earthquake.

 On a personal note – we spent several hours in Narita Airport in 2010 on our way to and from Thailand. Seeing the photos of the deserted passenger halls and fallen ceilings above where I plugged my ebook reader in to charge, was frightening – and I’m sitting at my computer safe in Canada. I cannot imagine the terror, personal suffering and unbelievable destruction.

Pray, give your time, donate money – whatever you can. Do something to help our brothers and sisters in need in the global community.