Like many people in Japan (at least those who still have electricity) I’ve been watching the news since yesterday, breathing a sigh of relief as each friend checks in or is found, and still worried about the many who have still not yet been heard from.

(This map was first posted on Facebook by Kim Horne, and is originally from crnjapan)

If you aren’t familiar with Japan, this map should help you understand where everything is happening. The coast along the yellow region is nearest to the epicenter, and where the tsunami was the highest. That’s where the devastation is worst, and where most people are still without electricity or telephone services. The quake was felt as far west as the green and aqua areas. (I live in the gray area, and if I hadn’t had Twitter on yesterday I wouldn’t have known that anything happened.)

ELT News has done a good job of collecting information about the quake and aftermath, with links to more resources. The information is geared toward English teachers living in Japan, but useful to anyone and very easy to navigate.

Collaborative for Disaster Mitigation is another site that parents and teachers of children might find useful. It has a downloadable brochure: Helping Children Cope After a Major Earthquake The brochure is available in English and Japanese (and 9 other languages) and has some nice tips for adults wondering how to help children deal with a universe that is stunningly beyond their control. My favorite tips:

–Mentally command the quake or aftershock to stop shaking, and repeat the command until the shaking stops. For some children (and maybe adults?) this helps reduce stress immediately after the quake.

–Bring a stuffed animal to school to act as an earthquake buddy.

–Remember that your family and community will take care of you.

They also include some excellent advice for recognizing and understanding a child’s reaction to disaster and loss, which is important since children often show fear and sadness differently than adults do.

I’ve also received messages from teachers outside Japan wondering what their students can do to help children inside Japan. We all want to do something–adults and children alike. I know that there will be specific needs in the coming weeks, and I’ll do my best to get the word out as I hear. In the meantime, if your students have a connection to Japan (whether friends, a school connection, or simply a unit of study about the country) why not let them write messages of encouragement for the children here. The act of doing something is better than the frustration of not being able to do anything.

If the messages are physical (like letters or cards) hold onto them until things are a bit more settled. I’m sure we can identify schools that will be happy to receive them. If the messages are digital, I’ll find a place for your students to share them. Contact me though this blog (or on Twitter or Facebook) and we’ll figure it out.

In the meantime, the ELT News site has links to organizations providing support on the ground up north, and information about donating to them. It’s always smart to stay with established aid organizations, and they’re already here and helping.

Do you have additional suggestions for helping children cope? Or for ways that children can be involved in helping? Please share them in comments.

If you’re safe with your loved ones, give them a hug. Please continue to hold northern Japan in your thoughts and prayers.

Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto

About Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto

Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto has taught English and ESL in the US, and EFL in Japan. An EFL teacher and teacher trainer since 1985, she has conducted workshops throughout Asia, the USA and Latin America. Barbara’s motto is ‘Always try new things’, so these days, when she’s not teaching, writing, or giving workshops, she’s exploring the potential of new technologies for collaboration and professional development. You can often find Barbara online working with teachers around the world as Program Director for International Teacher Development Institute ( or on her new blog for English teaches who work with young learners, Teaching Children English.

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4 Responses

  1. Marisa Pavan says:

    Dear Barb,

    I’m glad to know you’re OK. I imagine how relieved you must feel when you receive news about friends who are fine.

    Sending messages to kids in Japan from different parts of the world sounds encouraging as it’s a way to show them that everybody cares about them. You can probably collect messages through wallwisher or linoit for kids and deliver them.

    Warm regards from Argentina,

    • Barbara Barbara says:

      Thanks, Marisa. I’m waiting to see if we can get a platform set up that will be more accessible to children (and others) here in Japan than Wallwisher. I’ll let you know when that happens.

  2. ONE WAY TO HELP: Christian Relief, Assistance, Support and Hope (CRASH) is already on the ground in Sendai helping with relief efforts. CRASH equips and prepares churches and missions to be there to help their communities when disasters strike and coordinates Christian volunteers to work with local ministries in the event of a disaster. What they need immediately is money for satellite phones and $3,500 for each of the three or four survey teams that have just left for the area. Satellite phones will be used to keep in touch with teams being sent out and with the base camps being setting up. Site for donations: