This last week, as I have watched the disaster in Japan unfold, I've wrestled with terrible fear and grief on behalf of loved ones who make their homes there. In our family, Japan is a very special place. My husband has been the director of an international exchange program catering to Japanese exchange students for the past twenty years. We honeymooned in Japan and climbed Mount Fuji while we were there (we even named our little Boston Terrier Fuji so we'd always have a constant reminder of the majestic mountain). The town we live in in the Pacific Northwest has a fifty-year Sister City relationship with a Japanese town that Bill and I visited in 2009 for a marathon race. In short, we have many Japanese friends, some of whom feel like family to us.
When we woke up on Friday morning to see the televised images of devastation, and as the scope of the trauma Japan was experiencing dawned on us, we turned to one another and asked, "What do we need to be doing?" Sometimes, there isn't much we can do for others suffering far away besides pray, send messages of concern and cry along with those who suffer. But sometimes we can do more.
Everyday, even when the earth is still and the oceans are calm, there is small scale tragedy somewhere in this world. As spirited women who care about other human beings we may at some point wish to devote at least one travel experience to volunteering to do good work somewhere on the planet. There are many ways to do this, and I thought in the wake of this last week, I would like to highlight a few opportunities for us to combine travel and service: