Three years after Japan disaster: Habitat for Humanity committed to supporting families repair and rebuild

Bangkok, 11 March 2014: The ‘Great East Japan Earthquake’ struck three years ago today. The 9.0-magnitude earthquake, and subsequent tsunami, devastated the eastern coastline of Japan’s Tohoku region. According to Japan’s National Police Agency, over one million buildings were damaged or totally destroyed, more than 15,000 people killed and thousands are still missing.

Top: Sato and Habitat volunteers installing interior insulation. Bottom: A group of teachers volunteered with HFH Japan and helped build the roof of Sato’s new home. HFH Japan is supporting Sato and his 90-year-old mother to leave their temporary shelter and build a new home in Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture, through its ‘Self-Build project’.

Sato*, 58, and his 90-year-old mother, lost their home in Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture, when it was swept away by the tsunami. Since then they have lived in temporary housing provided by the government. As Sato and his mother want to remain living in Okirai district of Ofunato city, they are not eligible for schemes supporting families to relocate.


Sato and his mother are the first family that Habitat for Humanity Japan has assisted through its ‘Self-Build project’, which aims to provide housing support services to those committed to rebuilding homes. The project introduces and explains government subsidy schemes, involves partner organizations, offers counsel and helps to secure skilled construction workers and suppliers, and uses volunteer labor to help reduce construction costs.

Home Repair

HFH Japan is also in the process of expanding its ‘Home Repair project’ to new locations. Originally run in Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture, in 2012, and then in Higashimatsushima city, Miyagi Prefecture, in 2013, the project has just launched in Misato, a town in Toda district, also in Miyagi Prefecture. The Home Repair project involves HFH Japan staff providing housing consultations and financial support to families wanting to undertake home repair work.

Looking ahead

Sato and his mother are representative of the thousands of families that have still not found solutions to their housing problems three years after the disaster. HFH Japan is committed to providing housing support services for affected families who wish to return to their neighborhoods and rebuild communities. In the coming months, with the loyal support of volunteers and donors, HFH Japan hopes to expand both its Self-Build and Home Repair projects.

Recap of previous activities

Habitat for Humanity started to support affected families in the immediate weeks after the disaster. Initial disaster response work involved teams of volunteers clearing debris from homes and community spaces, and distributing home starter kits to families living in temporary accommodation.

As needs changed, activities transitioned to supporting families rehabilitate their homes and improving the living situations of those in temporary shelters. HFH Japan has also implemented projects to upgrade community spaces to help revitalize communities.

Since the disaster struck, more than 2,200 volunteers have supported Habitat’s ‘Rebuilding Japan’ activities.

Click to find out more about Habitat for Humanity Japan’s work in Tohoku, to donate or volunteer.

*Name changed at the request of home partner.