Omocha Express - Toy Charity for Japan's Children
 
 

Project

Omocha Express is a public charity organized to raise funds to provide recreational items (such as toys, books, and art supplies) to children in Japan who have lost their homes and belongings in the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami. It is a partnership between the Japan Rail Modelers of Washington, DC (JRM), Iwate Rail Modelers' Circle (IRC), and the Sanriku Railway Company (Santetsu).

We hope the simple act of giving these items to children hit hard by the disaster will help give them hope for the future and show them that people around the world care. The toys will be purchased in Japan to ensure that they fit easily into these children's lives and to reduce shipping expenses.

Background

After the March 11 earthquake and tsunami struck northern Japan, members of the Japan Rail Modelers of Washington, DC wanted to help in some way. We exchanged stories of childhood gifts that were remembered throughout the recipient's life, from the 70-year-old rice farmer in Japan who has had a fondness for America ever since an American soldier gave him and his friends candy after WWII to the JRM member who still remembers his first new toys after losing everything in a house fire. Considering the way our club appeals to children, and the fact that our sister club is located in Iwate Prefecture (the coast of which was devastated by the tsunami), we saw a perfect opportunity to help in a unique way: giving toys to children who lost their own toys in the disaster.

We contacted IRC with our idea and they agreed it could work. Then IRC member Atsushi Tomite, who is an employee of the Sanriku Railway company, reported that Santetsu was eager to participate as well. From that, we formed a three-way partnership and established Omocha Express.

Roles:

  • Omocha Express volunteers will collect funds to send to Japan to purchase the toys, art supplies, and books.

  • IRC will assist in the distribution of the materials.

  • Santetsu will locate day-care centers and kindergartens in the stricken area that need the materials.

FAQ

 

Q: What is the legal status of Omocha Express?

A: We are an unincorporated association organized as a public charity. We are a 501(c)(3) organization, and we are registered as a charity with the Maryland Secretary of State in compliance with the Maryland Charitable Solicitations Act.


Q: How will funds be used?

A: We will use raised funds to:

  • Buy toys and other recreational items
  • Pay operating fees required by federal, state, and local laws
  • Pay bank fees, such as transaction fees from PayPal or international wire fees for sending money to Japan
  • Other miscellaneous expenses, such as stamps for correspondence
  • Individuals will not receive any compensation from the fund, and we will strive to minimize our expenses.

    We have a donor who has generously offered to cover ALL our expenses up to $500. So at this time, 100% of your donation will be used to buy items for the kids.

Q. Are the toys going to be railroad-themed?

A. As a partnership between two railroad clubs and a railroad company, we will naturally want to provide railroad-themed items as much as we can. Of course, we also recognize that the children have various interests. So our gifts will include both train and non-train toys and items.


Q. What about sending American toys?

A. Although the symbolism of sending American toys to the kids in Japan is appealing, we think it's important to use our funds as efficiently as possible. Shipping from the US to Japan can be very expensive, and would dramatically reduce the number of toys we could give. We are also working with our counterparts in Japan to find culturally appropriate toys the kids will enjoy the most to replace their lost possessions.


Q. Can I donate a toy?

A. Unfortunately no, we are only buying toys and books in Japan for distribution there.


Q. Can I donate by credit card?

A. Unfortunately no, Omocha Express has stopped accepting donations and is finishing up the final distribution of toys, books, and art supplies.


Q. Can I donate by check?

A. Unfortunately no, Omocha Express has stopped accepting donations and is finishing up the final distribution of toys, books, and art supplies.


Q: What does the name "Omocha Express" mean?

A: "Omocha" (pronounced oh-moe-chah) is the Japanese word for "toy". So "Omocha Express" is the metaphorical express train delivering toys and high spirits to children in Japan.

 

Omocha Express - Toy Charity for Japan's Children

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