Guiding Non-Japanese to Lend a Helping Hand

Reaching out to people in need after a devastating disaster is never an easy task, but when there is language and cultural barrier, things can be even more difficult. One American, a longtime resident of Hiroshima Prefecture, is trying to bridge the gap by sharing her experiences in English so that more people will have a better idea of how to reach out to Japanese residents.

A commitment to serve the community

Yasuda Women's University Assistant Professor Joy Jarman-Walsh and her colleague have been busy translating a local volunteer guide into English.

She's a longtime resident of Hiroshima. She says their connection to this community and passion to help is what's motivating them publish this guide. They hope the booklet will make it easier for the nearly 50,000 non-Japanese living in the area who may want to help.

Experiences translated

As they worked on the guide, they began to realize that simply translating the guide into English was not enough, and that there is a need to communicate how sensitive and emotionally-charged the situation can be for victims.

For example, Jarman-Walsh reminds readers that they must confirm with victims before throwing out trash, as it could contain valuable or sentimental items.

Her colleague suggested adding her memory of a moment when the locals said what everyone else was referring to as debris was not debris to them, but their lives and precious belongings. She's gone through it all, too

Jarman-Walsh says she was motivated by her experience of torrential rains that devastated the area back in 2014. At the time, there weren't English resources so she had to rely on Japanese friends for guidance. She said it was a challenge to find out where to go, how to get there, and what to do back then.

This time around, she says that luckily, she didn't sustain any injuries or damage. But everybody that she's heard from around Hiroshima or Okayama Prefectures has had to evacuate, and many still don't have water. She says it's a really devastating week for a lot of people.

Still, Jarman-Walsh is hopeful that the power and resilience of the locals will start to come through, even though it may take a while. The guide will be available on their website,, in the next few days.