Like many people, I was shocked by the utter devastation wreaked by the natural disasters in Japan last week. (In truth, I cried and cried but half my family is Japanese so I think I can be forgiven this display of emotion, even if it is not typically British or Japanese!) After speaking to friends and family both here and in Japan, I became aware that many people wanted to help but didn’t know how to do so. I found myself in the same position.
So, with help from some wonderful like-minded people here at Ocado, we set up an Ocado Japan appeal page on JustGiving. This enables people in the UK to donate to Peace Winds Japan, a non-governmental organisation dedicated to the support of people in distress, threatened by conflict, poverty, or other turmoil. Peace Winds was recommended to me by my cousin Akiko who lives and works in Tokyo. And who happens to be my closest relative in the whole world.
I appreciate that some people might feel that Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, doesn’t need help in the same way as developing countries. I understand this completely. But I also think that when a nation is brought to its knees, it makes little difference that it is considered ‘rich’ or ‘poor’. I am driven by the human suffering (500,000 homeless people; orphaned children; destroyed communities). I am also humbled by the stoicism and resolve of the Japanese people. I don’t think the national response to this crisis is something one would see in any other country.
Separately, there have been some murmurs about Japan’s role in the Second World War, particularly amongst older members of society. My father served in the Royal Navy for 16 years, including 1939-45 and saw active service in the Pacific. I am therefore sensitive to these observations, but consider myself to be the product of a ‘rapprochement’ between East and West and encourage us to look to the future and not the past (a mantra that also drives the business we have created).
This is why, despite us being a business that has rather infamously not yet made a full-year profit, I persuaded my colleagues that we should match the first £20,000 of donations from customers and staff. I acknowledge that I am abusing my position as the co-founder of this business to raise funds. Hopefully I will be forgiven. This is a good cause and one that I care passionately about.
Judging by the response, many Ocado people and customers do too. Less than 24 hours since launch, with the appeal fund standing at over £100,000, it feels like it was the right decision. To everyone who has already donated, or does so after reading this blog, thank you.
PS To donate, please visit the Ocado JustGiving page. If you can, please claim GiftAid on your contribution to ensure that even more money goes directly to help the people of Japan.