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The Red Feather was key to Japan’s post-war recovery.

The Red Feather was key to Japan’s post-war recovery.

Right after the end of World War II, the Red Feather Community Chest campaign called the Campaigning for Social Change was launched. Not only was this a pivotal moment for Japan, it also changed the history of the country’s social welfare structure in the post-war period.

The current Community Chest structure in Japan comprises a central unit, the Central Community Chest of Japan (CCCJ, based in Tokyo), and a total of 47 prefectural Community Chests covering 1,800 communities. These local chests are equipped to analyze local issues and needs, to help form subsequent strategies to best remedy the situation, and to work toward continued improvement and stability.

District and branch offices across the nation work closely with local community leaders, governments, and NGOs, and have improved the lives of 26 million people including elderly and disabled people, and children.

Almost two million community residents are involved in this process as volunteers.

The Community Chest of Japan provided critical support after World War II.

The Community Chest of Japan provided critical support after World War II.

In 1947, after World War II had ended, the Community Chest of Japan (CCJ) launched the nation’s very first private social welfare campaign through the support and leadership of the General Headquarters.

As part of the reconstruction efforts, the campaign initially focused on providing financial support for welfare facilities, aiding war-affected communities and repatriates from various colonies. The campaign raised ¥590 million, equivalent to approximately ¥150 billion in present-day terms.

Throughout this period, the CCJ helped form the very foundations of Japan’s social welfare sector by, for example, supporting the building of care homes for orphans, the development of nursing homes for senior citizens, and increasing the number of vocational aid centers for the disabled.

The key to success lay in working directly with local people and forming strategies in line with their many needs. Over the past 69 years, the Red Feather’s total donations have totaled ¥949.3 billion, enabling the organization to increase its capacity and scope, while touching an ever-growing number of lives and communities.

Today, Japan faces many social issues, and the CCCJ has historically been viewed as a leader in addressing these challenges.

Since the Great Hanshin Earthquake of January 17, 1995, which claimed more than 6,400 lives, the frequency of earthquakes in Japan has grown immensely. If we compare and contrast the number of earthquakes occurring twenty years before and after the Great Hanshin Earthquake, it shows that both the frequency of such disasters and the number of fatalities have increased threefold.

The worst disaster in recent times was the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011, which caused untold misery and severe damage to the coastal area of Tohoku, covering 561 km2. More than 19,000 people were killed and about 115,000 homes were destroyed.

Earthquakes are not the only threat, as the people of Japan regularly experience floods, landslides, typhoons, tidal waves, and tornados. It is no surprise Japan is called by many a “nation of disasters.”

In response to such threats, the CCCJ took steps to help immediately following the Great East Japan Earthquake by creating the Disaster Relief Volunteer & NPO support fund (VolSup). When channeled to the government, the money it raises takes the form of donations which are distributed directly to victims of the Tohoku disaster, based on factors such as their assessed level of need and the damage wrought. It should be noted that victims need not only cash, but many other forms of support: psychological support and counseling being key requirements.

The VolSup Fund supports NPOs and their activities in order to provide support to victims. Calamities not only cause suffering for those directly impacted, but also worsen a diverse range of existing problems, such as alcohol dependency, domestic violence, and child poverty. The funds for Tohoku collected to date total ¥4.5 billion, and have been used to support 2,950 disaster relief programs reaching close to 5.5 million people. In response to the Kumamoto earthquakes of April 2016, the CCCJ established VolSup Kyushu, through which the organization will support those affected as they rebuild their lives and get back on their feet.

Child poverty, in particular, has become an increasingly prevalent social issue. The country’s relative poverty rate stood at 16.3 percent according to the government’s comprehensive survey of living conditions in 2012.

This issue has been one of the less-visible problems in Japanese society due to the fact that many affected families find themselves cut off from the community at a time when they need help the most. This situation is aggravated by a feeling of shame among victims when they find themselves unable to sustain their families properly.

Many countries are experiencing the effects of an aging population. However, the extent of this demographic change in Japan is unprecedented and warrants real concern. A falling birthrate will in no way soften the blow, and forecasts reveal that in 50 years’ time senior citizens will make up 40 percent of the population, compared with 25 percent at present. In local communities, social exclusion and isolation have worsened and the government is becoming increasingly incapable of supporting vulnerable people in rural as well as urban locations.

The logical next question is: What can we do about it?

The CCCJ has begun creating a practical solution to this question. In order to tackle and solve nationwide social issues, the CCCJ has established the Red Feather Community Impact Fund.

Through this new fund, CCCJ is looking to expand its scope and help solve issues such as the problem of relative poverty—something that all local Community Chests are experiencing in their districts, and that is not limited to only one geographic area of Japan. By taking a more holistic approach to this nationwide issue, the CCCJ can continue to help confront the problem and take on many other nationwide challenges, such as social exclusion and isolation, helping the poor, assisting the disabled, and providing support to victims of abuse.

These issues—often global in nature—require the support of various stakeholders, from individuals to local councils and global corporations. In fact, this is the very reason the Red Feather Community Impact Fund was created, and we hope it will be the very vehicle by which the CCCJ can reach sustainable nationwide solutions. Please join us and become part of this new movement to redefine the boundaries of social support in Japan and provide aid for those who need it most.

Japanese tax benefits are applicable to donations made to the CCCJ, in accordance with Japanese taxation laws.

United Way Worldwide (UWW) is the world’s largest privately funded non-profit organization, which raises more than $5 billion every year and operates in more than 40 countries and territories.

The UWW works with companies, governments, non-profits, and other organizations to address complex challenges on a worldwide scale. The CCCJ is an exclusive longtime partner of United Way in Japan.

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The Community Chest of Japan . . . launched the nation's very first private social welfare campaign.