Refugee NPO to celebrate music, hope for Tohoku

by Masami Ito

Staff Writer

There are approximately 15.2 million refugees around the world who have had to flee their home countries in fear of persecution for political, religious or racial reasons. In Japan, tens of thousands of people remain unable to return home since the deadly earthquake and tsunami hit Tohoku on March 11.

Refugees International Japan, a Tokyo-based nonprofit organization, plans to hold a charity event this week to raise money, awareness and give support not only to the refugees around the globe but also to the survivors of the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake.

The “Rhythm and Hope” event, to be held in Tokyo’s Ebisu district Thursday, “is a celebration of music – how it is therapy in troubled times and can provide hope for people in difficulty,” said Jane Best, chairman of RIJ. Featured performances will include Tokyo-based Latin band Funky Ritsuco Version and Japanese wadaiko and African drums fusion duo Isaku Kageyama and Winchester Nii Tete. “The mix celebrates the breadth of support that RIJ provides around the world,” Best said.

Established in 1979, RIJ has so far distributed more than $8 million to over 700 refugee-related projects around the world. RIJ-funded projects focus on empowerment, community management, education and skill-development.

Most recently, RIJ has been involved in educational support for people in refugee camps in Thailand who did not finish high school, environmental projects in Uganda and psycho-social programs to help trauma victims in Colombia.

The upcoming event is the first one through which RIJ aims to provide support to survivors of natural disasters.

“In this case, they are our neighbors and we wanted to provide support,” Best said. “We also feel that the experience we have of funding community projects for displaced people in other countries would be valuable here in Japan.”

Following the earthquake, there has been widespread popular sentiment to refrain from holding entertainment events in public given that tens of thousands of people have lost their lives in the disaster.

Best said RIJ pondered whether to hold “Rhythm and Hope” as planned, but eventually decided to go ahead.

“As time went on, our supporters were keen to have something to look forward to and particularly an event that would benefit those who have lost their homes and livelihoods in Tohoku,” Best said. “We all hope that people recognize that music and dance provides hope for everyone.”

The Rhythm and Hope event will be held from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday at What the Dickens in Ebisu.

For further information, visit www.refugeesinternationaljapan.org/user/home.php