The Great Northeastern Japan Earthquake on 3/11/2011 captured my heart. The images of the tsunami engulfing Sendai and Ishinomaki were at such a scale that the waves seemed to approach in slow motion until the water smashed into homes, cars and walls. The crisis reminded me of Kobe, and I remember the psychologic shock it created for that city’s residents.
A vulnerable moment for survivors occurs during the move from emergency shelters to temporary housing. The new environment is private, spartan and disconnected from the social relationships individuals have fostered their entire lives. I thought it was essential to let the people of Tohoku know that others around the world were thinking of them during this period of transition. This is why I created the Genki Notes project with the Japan Foundation, U.S.-Japan Council and friends from Kobe.
The Genki Notes project also allowed me to experiment with Eric Raymond’s framework for open source projects. I designed the project with Raymond’s factors to encourage school children to make cards of encouragement and to send them to me. The cards were scanned, geotagged and feedback was sent to schools through FaceBook. The project received more than 7,000 cards within six weeks. The moment the factors of Raymond’s framework were withdrawn, the project collapsed as planned. The cards were given to the US Military to handout at temporary housing compounds, and I led a group of journalists to Japan to deliver cards in June 2011.