Hello and hisashiburi, friends of hearts for haragama,
This will be a somewhat lengthy entry as we explain our lack of updates to this site recently. It will be followed shortly by an update of our recent activities around Fukushima, and some of the great work that has been undertaken around the world on behalf of our organisation.
Firstly, we must apologise to everyone for our lack of updates on this website. After careful and considerable deliberation over the best way to deal with the issues with PayPal we outlined in our previous post, we are finally able to bring all our donors up to date with the situation we have been dealing with over the last couple of months.
Before going public with our ambitions for hearts for haragama, our team members did their very best to ensure that our methods for publicising our cause and collecting donations were honest, transparent and of course, legal. After consulting with numerous representatives at PayPal and referring to the relevant Japanese legal guidelines, we were confident that we would be able to freely receive donations into the PayPal account we had established. In fact, in the beginning, PayPal employees not only assured us that what we were undertaking was legal, but they also commented that it sounded like a great cause and encouraged us to go ahead with it.
Which we did. We had an overwhelmingly positive response in the first couple of weeks after going live with hearts for haragama, and collected a considerable amount of donations in this time. We were all so excited; after all the pain and hardships that we had endured and witnessed, we finally felt like we were making real progress towards helping the people of Fukushima. Despite this, and perhaps as a result of the sheer amount of money that was coming into our account so suddenly, we received notice from PayPal that our organisation did not qualify to receive donations under their terms and conditions.
The vast majority of these communications were automatically generated emails from deep within the bowels of PayPal, and had obviously not been screened by any human employees. After trying desperately to contact real people at PayPal to plead our case (and to remind them that they had in fact encouraged us to go ahead and set up our account with them), they admitted that their customer service representatives are not always up-to-date with the latest policies and regulations for collecting donations. In short, they said they had no way of verifying that we were not a fraudulent organisation, and that our account would be frozen.
Given the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the March 11 earth and tsunami, this probably shouldn’t have come as a huge shock. We, as residents of Fukushima, were certainly unprepared for the experiences that were to follow, and it is understandable that large businesses such as PayPal would also have been unprepared for the kinds of charity organisations (and subsequent generosity of donations) that were to spring up in the aftermath of the disaster. However, this was only a small consolation for us at the time, as we became more and more certain that we would have to refund all our PayPal donations, close our account and effectively undo all our hard work for Haragama Kindergarten and the people of Fukushima.
We then began to consider the only alternative that was given to us by PayPal. They told us that if we waited 180 days, we would be free to transfer our donations from our PayPal account into our Japanese bank account where we would be able to withdraw it freely (and thus, put it to good use helping Haragama).
Initially, we didn’t want to even consider this course of action. We were in the midst of an emergency, dealing with people who had no shelter, clothes or food right then, not in six months time, and we wanted to help them immediately. However, it gives us great pride and relief to be able to announce that thanks to the support we have received from direct, personal donations into our bank account, cheques sent from overseas, and the proceeds of various fundraising ventures undertaken on our behalf, we have been able to provide Tsukasa and Haragama Kindergarten with the supplies and resources they needed to get through the most desperate times in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. Many of the students and their families who were living in cramped evacuation centres in school gymnasiums and the likes have been relocated to temporary housing developments. And regular weekday classes have resumed and are ongoing at Haragama Kindergarten.
Of course, the efforts of the people in Soma and around the rest of the Tohoku region to stabilise and rebuild their livelihoods will be ongoing for a number of years. That is why we are so grateful to be able to present Haragama Kindergarten with the donations we collected through PayPal after the 180 days are up and our account is unfrozen, on October 14th 2011.
We will make sure to suitably celebrate this occasion when the day finally comes. We are all looking forwards to being able to go to Tsukasa with all your love and kindness and show him how much support he has from all over the world, even as the images of the disaster in Japan are replaced by scenes of rebirth and regrowth.
And finally, we couldn’t possibly continue with our efforts without acknowledging you, our families, friends, fans and followers, for taking an interest in our activities and for providing us with such generous support. Your donations of your time, money and resources will forever be appreciated by us, and by Tsukasa, his students and all their families. Together, we are really making a difference to the quality of life of the people in Soma, Fukushima, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for everything you have done, your words of encouragement and of course, your patience as we have dealt with this obstacle.
hearts for haragama