TMN launched its first “100 Santas Clauses!” campaign in the fall of 2011, initially calling for 100 volunteers to dress as Santa Claus, and distribute gifts to tsunami victims living in temporary accommodation in towns and cities across coastal Iwate.
Such was the success of the initial campaign, that the number of volunteers immediately rose from 100 to 500. In 2012, the program sought 600 volunteers to distribute gifts across a three-day period between December 22 and 24.
The JTI Foundation’s specific contribution focused on the towns of Ofunato and Rikuzentakata, where the presents donated reached over 10,000 beneficiaries.
This project was important for a number of reasons. First, provided a welcome morale booster for those whose lives had yet to return to normality. For many individuals and families, the Christmas season is often challenging emotionally – as they remember loved ones claimed by the tragedy – or separated by temporary rehousing programs.
Second, TMN’s nationwide publicity campaign reinforced the volunteering ethic that was an important factor in providing emergency relief in the immediate aftermath of the March 2011 disaster.
Finally, the program reminded the wider population of Japan of the plight of those still living with the consequences of the earthquake and tsunami in Iwate – one of the prefectures most affected by the disaster.