This article was published in The Appalachian.
When a massive earthquake hit Japan on Friday, March 11, it was time for one Boone-based nonprofit to kick into high gear.
Evangelical international relief organization Samaritan’s Purse has a response team that constantly monitors potential disasters across the globe, Response Manager Chuck Ainsworth said. Early Friday morning, Ainsworth was awakened by an early-morning phone call, and the team assembled to determine a response to the tragedy as it grew in scale.By Saturday, team members had left the United States. Currently, Samaritan’s Purse has six disaster specialists on the ground and nine more on the way. Team members are currently sleeping on the floor of a kindergarten in Sendai.
Supplies are currently a major need, Ainsworth said. Already it’s next to impossible to obtain even a water bottle in Tokyo and Sendai.
Already, the team from Samaritan’s Purse has distributed four tons of supplies—food, water, blankets and hygiene kits—purchased in Japan. On Friday, a 747 airliner will leave Charlotte carrying more than 90 tons of supplies, including advanced water filtration systems.
Ainsworth explained that Samaritan’s Purse stores pre-positioned relief supplies in warehouses around the country. This helps to assure the availability and regulate the distribution of supplies.
In addition to distributing needed supplies, the Samaritan’s team is attempting to provide spiritual and emotional support for the Japanese people by coordinating their efforts through Japanese churches and pastors.
“They’re really asking them, ‘What are your greatest needs and how can we help you?’” Ainsworth said.
In addition to the events in Japan, Samaritan’s Purse staff members are currently responding to recent disasters in Haiti, North Africa and New Jersey.
Although this can strain resources at times, Ainsworth said, the staff is committed to its efforts around the world.
“We stay up late, we stretch, we work hard…we do whatever it takes because we know that the people on the other end really need our help,” he said.
Currently, the staff at Samaritan’s Purse is unsure how long they’ll have a team on the ground in Japan.
“As long as we’re helpful and as long as they need us, we want to be there,” Ainsworth said. “At the same time, we are aware that Japan is a developed country with a lot of infrastructure, so in time they’ll be able to handle more of the response on their own. Right now, it’s day to day.”
For more information on Samaritan’s Purse and to donate to relief efforts in Japan, click to www.samaritanspurse.org. To view specific prayer requests from the team in Japan, follow @SamaritansPurse on www.twitter.com or become a fan of Samaritan’s Purse International Relief on www.facebook.com.