48 Hours

When the magnitude 9.0 earthquake hit Japan, I was in bed checking Twitter and winding down for the night. I was about to close out and a tweet popped up “when is it going to stop shaking”. Then another “Big Earthquake”. And then another. And another after that. I switched the TV over to CNN. If it was ‘serious’, something would pop up there. It had. Iit was everywhere on the screen and they were showing video from NHK of the first tsunami moving towards the shore. I thought to myself “this can’t be happening” only to realize I was saying out loud… loud enough to wake my wife. I sat up in bed, stunned, watching the video of this enormous wave take out a shoreline, then a road, then buildings. I immediately started emailing friends in Japan and posting requests on Facebook and used any way I could to reach out to them my and ‘family’ over there. The phone, each time I called, greeted me with the typical ‘international ring’ and then silence. I felt helpless, restless and in shock. I have been in a sort of shock since then.

Friday and Saturday I was overwhelmed with an inundation of horror on all fronts: TV, websites, twitter, facebook. Each time I heard from someone over there or through a third-party, I rejoiced only to be met with sorrow other times. By Sunday I had to do something. My first 48 hours of dealing with this horror and feeling useless had to change.

The last 48 hours have been much more productive. I started asking friends in Japan what charities I could send to directly. The idea was simple. I didn’t have to rely on large international charities and, at least, the perceived sense that my few dollars would never really have an impact. So, instead I would send money to organizations there, in Japan. Japan is not a third-world country. They have the benefits of a real infrastructure, trained personnel, technology and the basic where-with-all… so why not send it directly to them and their people to maximize the effect of my money.

Sunday night, I emailed my friends at Pinnacle Bank and early Monday morning, I already had an account setup (and they even made the first contribution). A huge thanks to Donna Chambers there. As a designer, I have to ‘create’ many times to get focused, so I calligraphed a shield using the name I decided to call this effort. SOGO Japan was born and had a face (click to learn more about the meaning of Sogo Japan). I decided I would quickly recut an existing font and sell it on the soon-to-be-designed-website and provide unique content and incentives to those that really wanted to give. I have plans for other things to give/offer as incentives including: tshirts, signed artwork, letterpress prints, etc. but I needed to start somewhere.

Then by late Monday night I had the initial code ready for the site and had repurposed and restyled a custom twitter feed that searches and displays content from popular hashtags people were using. Tuesday morning and throughout the day, I have spent building the rest of the site out, finessing the details and to try and present the most impactful, sincere and honest presentation for this endeavor that I could. With it complete, I will launch Wednesday.

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