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Mar 31, 2011

Trying to help: Project Biwa

As you all know, the situation in the areas affected by the March-11 earthquake and tsunami is still very bad. It is fairly easy to imagine how bad things are, and I am not going to dwell on it. This is not the point of this post. The important thing, now, is to help.

But how can I help?
I initially thought of only two ways I could help: donating cash (or supplies), or going up there to help.

The former option is fairly obvious but I am far from rich, and my small contribution to date will not get them very far, (even though it is still better than nothing).

The latter is very tempting, but not appropriate right now. I do not have special skills (such as first aid, psychological support, or even a truck driving license), and my Japanese is far from good enough for a situation like this, so I would basically be a burden (as well as a drain on their limited supplies) if I was to go now. There will be a point in the future when my hands may be needed and I hope I will be able to sort all issues then (budget to go there, arrangements to my work schedule, etc.), but now is not the time. Volunteering is not about making me feel better. It is about being useful, and at this stage I would not.

So, what can I do?

There are some great ideas circulating over the Internet. I have already told you about the Partners4Japan channel (are you subscribed yet?), but it is not the only project on YouTube. Take Victor (a.k.a. Gimmeabreakman, Gimmeaflakeman) for instance. His channels are into the tens of thousands subscribers, and he is putting this to good use. In addition to participating in the Partners4Japan channel, he has recently announced a GanbareJapan collaboration project, asking people to submit photos or videos that will be put together to lift everybody's spirits. And to make things even better, proceeds from the video will be donated to charity. Nice!

Kevin (a.k.a. jlandkev, BusanKevin) has been very active as well, (including on Partners4Japan, and there is probably something coming from him for GanbareJapan as well). Kevin is a runner, the marathon type of runner. To help Japan, he has decided to move into ultra-marathon territory, and has started training for a 60-kilometer run. This is quite something! The aim is to raise funds (and he has already collected $490 at the time of writing) but even if you can not donate, please make sure to check his training blog Running to help Japan and send him some words of encouragement.

I do not know them personally (never met Victor, and Kevin only once), but their initiatives served as inspiration for what I am going to detail next, so credit has to go where it is due. Thanks for your efforts and ideas, guys!

Contrary to them, I do not have thousands of subscribers on YouTube (hardly surprising given my videos, or lack thereof!), and I can not seriously be considered a runner (a few kilometers here and there is not something to get excited about). I do, however, enjoy taking photos, and usually get a fairly positive feedback.

I live in a beautiful region, and if I can convince one tourist to come here, the benefits to the Japanese economy will be larger than what I will ever be able to donate. And if the pictures can also bring a smile to someone in Japan, it will be even better.

Here comes "Project Biwa", a three-day loop around Lake Biwa, to document just how beautiful the area is. Photos from this trip will of course appear on this blog, but the nicest ones will also be collected into a book (using Blurb or another similar service), and all proceeds from this book will go to charity.

In order to spice things up a little, and so as not to seat on a train while Kevin is training so hard, the loop will be done cycling. The loop itself is a 200-kilometer effort, as you can see on the map below (calculated using RunningAHEAD).

Of course, if I want to cycle around the lake without wasting money on renting a bike, I also have to cycle to the lake and back, so you can add another 100 kilometers or so.

At this point, it was worth remembering that my bike is something of an hybrid between a chopper and a Japanese mama-chari bicycle. In other words, it is a fairly heavy, single speed bike, with a basket in front.

With this kind of bike, I need to train hard in order to pull this up. I have already started, and will gradually increase my daily total. The big tests will come in about 4-5 weeks from now, when I will start testing myself on distances over 80 kilometers. If all things progress smoothly, I am hoping to complete the loop in late May, but can not guarantee an exact date yet. In any case, even if I need another six months of training, it will eventually happen.

I will post regular updates on my progress, on this blog (look for the Project Biwa label) as well as on Twitter.

By the end of next week, I need to decide which organisation(s) I am going to donate funds to, and whether I create a fundraiser page or some sort of PayPal button, in case someone want to give something extra to motivate me even more.

(PS: I will probably not be cycling alone on the day, but I am not going to give names now, as availability may vary depending on when it actually takes place)


mauhiz said...

So... When are you doing it?
I am free on the Golden Week... ;)

Dimitri said...

You want to cycle down from Yokohama? ;)

The date is not fixed yet, but I am currently aiming for late May or early June, so the Golden Week is coming a little too early. I will still have about 180km of training during that week though, according to my current schedule.

mauhiz said...

I would have joined from Kyoto (and rented a bike there).

But the period you mention is around the birth of my daughter. Can't afford to be away at that time :P

Dimitri said...

That's OK, you have a good excuse! ;)
But don't forget to send pictures, then.

Ghismo said...

Très bon projet ! Tu peux me compter parmi tes followers :)

Dimitri said...

Merci ! :)

Pour l'instant, l’entraînement est léger, mais je passe à 100 puis 150km par semaine à partir de lundi, donc j'aurai sûrement des choses à raconter à ce moment-là ! ;)