Emergency Kits, Ways to Contribute to Disaster Relief for Japan

[photo credit: STR/EPA]

Like most people, I watched via livestream in horror at all the chaos and destruction that unfolded in Japan during their earthquake and tsunami late Thursday night/early Friday morning.  I was tearing through websites looking for more information, trying to post up as much as I could for others.  Hawaii was issued a tsunami warning that night as well and I spent a good hour contacting friends and family to make sure they were outside of the evacuation zones.

As I looked at the heartbreaking aftermath pictures in Japan, I was sharply reminded of the necessity of having an emergency kit (and plan). I have seen Emergency Kits for sale on places like Amazon or even the Red Cross website, but I think the best thing to do is build your own and tailor it to your needs. Here’s a listing of kits on Amazon, just to give you an idea of what kind of items you can/should include. If you have pets, make sure your kit includes supplies for them as well. As a suggestion, I started with a first aid kit from Red Cross–there are a few different options depending on how many people are in your household. If there’s enough interest, I will post up what’s in my kit to give others an idea of what to include.

Want to donate to disaster relief in Japan? I know I wanted to, but like most people felt overwhelmed by the options.  So, I’ve done a bit of research and listed a few places I recommend. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but just a few suggestions to get you started. Charity Navigator also lists a number of reputable organizations you can donate to, listing them by rating. If you click on the organization’s name, it will give you a complete breakdown of the company from accountability, historical data, etc.


  • Peace Winds Japan – This link is specifically for Japan disaster relief. It also lists opportunities to volunteer if you’re available.
  • Global Giving – This link is specifically for Japan’s earthquake/tsunami.

In case you’re interested, Charity Navigator also lists some great tips on deciding where/how to donate:

Wait and see: While we all feel an urgent need to help immediately following a massive disaster, some donors may want to wait a few days before donating. By then, charities should have a more clear plan of how they’ll provide aid.

Avoid Newly-Formed Charities and Give To An Established Charity That Has Worked In Japan – Establishing a new charity is hard enough, but in a crisis, the odds of succeeding are slim to none. Think of it this way: would you entrust all your savings in a financial firm that just opened, doesn’t even have stationery, and whose employees have no experience in investing money? Doubtful. Find a charity with a proven track record of success in providing disaster relief on a massive scale and one that has worked in Japan and the other impacted regions. Start with the list of charities on the right and if a group you are considering supporting isn’t there, then take the time to thoroughly research it before making a gift.

Designate Your Investment – Generally, it is best to trust your chosen charity to spend your donation as it sees fit. But with disaster related giving, you should specify that you want your donation only used to respond to this particular crisis.

Do Not Send Supplies – Knowing that people are desperately in need of food and water, it is hard not to want to pack up a box of supplies and send it to Japan. But this type of philanthropy is simply not practical or efficient. Even if mail could get to an impacted region, no one is set up to receive these goods, much less organize and distribute them to the victims. Furthermore, charities are often able to partner with companies to acquire large amounts of in-kind donations such as bottled water and new clothing. Instead of boxing up and sending your old clothing, have a garage sale and turn your used goods into cash and donate that to a worthy charity.

Be Careful Of Email Solicitations – Be Leery Of People That Contact You Online Claiming To Be A Victim – Unless you personally know someone in Japan, anyone alleging to be in this position is most likely part of a scam. Obviously, people affected by the earthquake and tsunami are in no position to contact you directly for assistance.

Delete Unsolicited Emails With Attachments – Never respond to unsolicited emails. Do not open any attachments to these emails even if they claim to contain pictures from Japan. These attachments are probably viruses.

Seek Out The Charity’s Authorized Website – Criminals are likely to set up bogus sites to steal the identity and money of generous and unsuspecting individuals. We saw this after Hurricane Katrina when the FBI reported that 4,000 sites were created to do just that. So, if you plan to give online, be sure to find the charity’s legitimate site. You can safely give on Charity Navigator’s site via our partnership with Network for Good. Alternatively, we link to each charity’s authorized site so you can give there if you prefer.

Think before you text – So long as you do your homework – meaning that you’ve vetted the charity and made sure that you are using the proper texting instructions- then texting can be a great way to give. Remember there may be additional costs to you to make such a gift. And it can take as much as 90 days for the charity to receive the funds.

Consider The Nature Of The Charity’s Work – Not every charity is responding in the same way. Some are providing medical assistance, some shelter, some food and water. Others will be more focused on either short term or long term rebuilding efforts. And some are just helping to fundraise for other nonprofits. Think about what it is you want your philanthropic investment to accomplish and then take the time to find the charities doing that work. At Charity Navigator we link to each charity’s website so that you can quickly learn more about their plans to help.

Be Inspired By Social Media, But Still Do Your Homework – Social networking tools like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and blogs are delivering heart-wrenching images and information about the earthquake and tsunami to our computers and phones. Many of them include pleas to donate. While these tools can be a powerful tool to inspire your desire to help, you should not blindly give via these vehicles. You must take the time to investigate the groups behind such pleas for help to ensure that it comes from a legitimate nonprofit.

Avoid Telemarketers – As always, hang up the phone do your homework and give directly to a charity.

Do Not Expect Immediate Results, But Do Keep Tabs On What Your Donation Accomplishes- It takes time for charities to mobilize, to assess the problems that need to be addressed and to develop effective solutions. Donors need to be patient so charities will not feel pressured to plunge in and offer ineffective aid, simply to placate impatient donors. That doesn’t mean donors shouldn’t hold the charities accountable for delivering on their promises! Be sure to follow up with the charity in a few months to find out (a) how your donation was put to use and (b) if the organization needs additional support to complete the recovery effort.

Queersay Los Angeles


A Discussion of Organizing in the API Lesbian, Bisexual Women, Queer & Trans Communities
Join us for a free panel discussion in celebration of National Women’s History Month!  Our panelists will share their stories as activists who’ve organized in the Los Angeles Asian & Pacific Islander Queer Women and Trans communities over the past years, and their vision of where the movement is headed.
Panelists: Alice Y. Hom, Queer Justice Fund Director, AAPIP

Gina Masequesmay, Rep. of the Partnership of Vietnamese LGBT Organizations & O-Moi Member

RiKu Matsuda, Mixed Queer Transman Radical Activist
Doreena Wong, Co-Chair of API Equality-LA & AQWA Core Member
Date:  Saturday, March 19, 2011
Time:  3PM – 6PM
Location:  Asian Pacific American Legal Center | 1145 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA
Light refreshments will be served.
RSVP is required by March 17, 2011
Co-sponsored by:
API Equality-LA
Asian Pacific American Legal Center, a member of the Asian Ameircan Center for Advancing Justice

PBS Hawaii to Air Two LGBT Family Films February 12th

2011 is going to have some changes here on Slowdancing with Strangers. I want to make better use of this space. The original scope of this site was mainly event photography, with an emphasis on candids, but the idea of Slowdancing with Strangers is about sharing an intimate moment with someone you don’t know. I think that idea can extend to affecting  social and political change, hopefully by getting strangers motivated and passionate about issues that are important to me.

I met Harold Kameya a few months ago when he wrote to me after watching my It Gets Better video. He and his wife Ellen are the founders of PFLAG in Los Angeles  and are also featured in one of the films discussed below. He put me in contact with some great LGBT activists here in LA and I am more than happy to help promote these films for him.

PBS Hawaii will be airing two powerful GLBT family films that we have been promoting and distributing:  Anyone and Everyone and Out in the Silence. We were recently informed that the two films will be shown on PBS Hawaii (Channel 10), back-to-back, next month on Sat., Feb. 12.  First, Out in the Silence will show at 8 p.m., followed by Anyone and Everyone at 9 p.m.

Out in the Silence was featured in the Star Advertiser when it was screened at the Hawaii International Film Festival, last October.  It is a documentary about a gay high school student who was bullied in school, and is very timely with the recent rash of young suicides due to bullying.  The film makers, Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer, have made many friends in Hawaii, and have provided us (Da Moms) with some copies of this film to distribute in Hawaii to organizations and programs that will use it for community educational purposes.  You can find out more about their film and project at:  www.OutintheSilence.com or call us for a free DVD copy.

Anyone and Everyone was released in 2007 and shown on many Public Television stations on the mainland but has not yet shown on television in Hawaii.  This film is also a documentary, about parents and their gay/lesbian children, and their struggles with conflicting religious and cultural beliefs.  The families are from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds, including a Japanese American family that has roots in Hawaii.  Harold Kameya (father) was born and raised in Maui, and Ellen Kameya (mother) was born and raised in Honolulu.  They have raised their children in California.  Da Moms has been distributing this DVD, also without charge, to organizations and programs for community educational purposes, through funding from Equality Hawaii, and the Hawaii Peoples Fund.  For more information on this film, go to:  www.anyoneandeveryone.com.

Please share this information with other supporters of the LGBT community on your mailing lists so that this PBS Hawaii airing will have a large statewide audience.  We also ask that you all make your appreciation known to PBS Hawaii for this showing of these two supportive LGBT films.  This is an opportunity to make our LGBT (and supporters) presence felt as PBS members and viewing audience.  And hopefully, this will be the start of regular LGBT programming on PBS Hawaii in the future.
(via Harold Kameya, originally from Jo Chang and Susie Roth)

Florence and the Machine at the Wiltern

credit: aleachristine
photo credit: alea christine

Oh Florence Welch, I hope that when I die the angels sound as lovely as you did this past Sunday at the Wiltern. I hope they sing with the same sort cinematic grandeur because the only way to sum up her performance is other worldly.

I arrived around 7pm  and stood in a line that wrapped around the block like floppy shoelace loops. I had reserved seats in the Mezzanine and settled in to the tiny (even for me!) seats of the theater.  Grouplove was the first opening act. They reminded me of the Polyphonic Spree and played the kind of music you associated with candy and childhood.  They were high energy and very entertaining (much like children on a sugar high).

Hanni El Khatib followed, a dark grunge jazz duo (I don’t know if that makes sense, but imagine seeing a two piece band in a seedy bar). Although I couldn’t really understand what the guy was singing about (the reverb was a bit too much), I definitely got the feeling it had to do with lust, loss, and maybe some booze. I think they should have actually been the first opening band, since Grouplove’s high energy would have been a better fit for Florence and the Machine’s larger than life set.

The curtain raised and there was Florence standing in the middle of the stage, banging a single drum with such force that it echoed off the walls of the theater.  “Drumming Song” was a fantastic opening song choice, the rhythm pushed through my veins and made my heart race with excitement and anticipation.

At one point, the back of Florence’s dress came undone. She giggled while her bandmate helped fasten her back up again and then said, “well, if I can’t fix my dress, it’s okay. You all will get your money’s worth!”  Between songs she gave sweet, quiet thank yous to the audience–it was hard to believe this was the same woman who, moments before, had the kind of control over her voice that I associated with singers twice her age. She is a beautiful force of nature, a singer whose talent and presence completely engulf you while she’s on stage.

Florence and the Machine is definitely a band you need to see live.  I’m listening to the album now and, while it’s fantastic, it doesn’t have the same sort of energy as the live show. In concert, Florence Welch is able to exercise those vocal chords without restraint.

It was an amazing thing to witness.

Halloween in West Hollywood – Everyone Comes Out to Play!

I learned two things this Halloween: 1) make sure to bring my external flash to properly shoot in WeHo  and 2) be prepared to deal with the repercussions of dressing up  my cat in a halloween costume.

I thought the area was going to be better lit (and way more crowded), so I left my external flash at home, thinking I could just use existing light. Wrong. Many LAers told me that West Hollywood for Halloween is THE thing to do. I’m thinking the LA equivalent of Waikiki on Halloween. They all warned me that it gets crazy busy there, so I went down early at 5pm to snag a parking. I’m not sure if it got crazier after I left (around 9pm), but it actually wasn’t that bad. Sure, it was crowded, but there was room to hang out, take pictures, and admire everyone’s costumes.

I’m so extremely sad that the Halloween season is now over. But, as a plus,  I can use the uncarved pumpkin on my dining room table for Thanksgiving decoration now.

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