A team of volunteer counsellors from Hong Kong is heading to Japan to offer immediate psychological help to earthquake and tsunami victims and to train locals to help the Japanese themselves deal with the trauma in the long run.
The 21-strong team from the Post Crisis Counselling Network is the first in Hong Kong to get approval from Japan to help in the relief work. The team plans to visit the quake-hit area for five days from April 14.
Timothy To Wing-ching, executive director for the network, said the need for emotional and psychological assistant was urgent.
The group received an e-mail from a Japanese fireman in Fukushima saying people were desperate. More than 10,000 evacuees living in three small temporary shelters were running out of food and they had no idea how long it would last, the e-mail said.
Farmers in Fukushima were in despair over their vegetables being banned from the marketplace because of possible contamination from radioactive soil.
'One just committed suicide and many are thinking of that as a way out,' To said. 'They now need much more than material help.'
The eight counsellors and social workers on the team will offer psychological help to victims and offer free training to at least 100 locals, To said.
He said many victims had spent the first month looking for their families and friends and it was better to offer counselling after everything was settled.
'It'll be the best time for us to do counselling work after they have a clear picture of the fate of their loved ones,' To said.
Counsellors would use both clinical and cognitive means, To said. They would help victims to overcome their trauma or focus on positives out of the quake to learn to let the trauma go.
The volunteers would also read victims' eyeball movements, to tell whether they were thinking about the past or future, and whether they were lying, To said.
The team plans to bring the victims 50,000 origami cranes made by Hongkongers and 5,000 cards written in Japanese by survivors from the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. The cranes will be used to decorate shelters, adding colour to the surroundings.
'It means a lot to them that there are people who fly to Japan just to wish them well,' he said.
He said more trips were being planned, but money was a problem. 'We need HK$160,000 for a 20-person trip, but so far we've only received donations of HK$20,000,' To said.
Each volunteer now has to pay HK$4,000, half the trip's cost. Trips in the future would focus on training and less money would be needed, To said. 'We need only three to four people to train 100 locals in each trip, so the budget can be reduced to HK$9,000.'
In related news, Pacific Wine International is offering 10,000 bottles of wine to people who make donations to Red Cross, World Vision, the Salvation Army or Oxfam for Japan relief.
Wine lovers have to first complete an order form available on the company's website. The company hopes to raise HK$1 million.
People can also send letters to the Agency for Volunteer Service to express their concern to the victims. The letters will be directed to the Japanese consulate.
Habitat for Humanity
HSBC: 502-476591-002 (for HK$)
HSBC: 502-476591-274 (for US$)
Please send bank-in slip with contact information.
Make crossed cheques payable to 'Habitat for Humanity China Limited'. Mark 'For Japan Post-Disaster Response' on the back and send with contact information to 17th floor, Sun House, 181 Des Voeux Road, Central, Sheung Wan.
Online donations at www.habitatchina.org 
Make crossed cheques payable to 'Hong Kong Red Cross' and send to Hong Kong Red Cross, 33 Harcourt Road. Write 'Japan Earthquake 2011' on the back.
Online donations at www.redcross.org.hk 
Inquiries: 2802 0021
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Hong Kong)
Account name: Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (HK). Please remark: 'Designated to Japan Earthquake Fund'.
Online donations at www.spca.org . hk/eng/donate/donate2_donation.asp
The Salvation Army
Bank of East Asia: 015-515-40-400333-1
Bank of China: 012-878-1-044486-6
Hang Seng Bank: 024-385-094180-001
Details at www.salvation.org.hk 
Inquiries: 2783 2333
Bank of China: 012-875-1-0810855
Wing Lung Bank: 020-601-003-7634-8
Bank of East Asia: 015-260-81-01210-0
Make cheques payable to 'Hong Kong Committee for Unicef'.
Send cheques, with personal details and 'Japan' written on the back, to Hong Kong Committee for Unicef, 3/F, 60 Blue Pool Road, Happy Valley.
PPS: Use your contact number as bill number. Enter Unicef merchant code: 6012, then select bill type 3 'emergency'.
Online donations at www.unicef.org.hk 
World Vision Hong Kong
Hang Seng Bank: 286-364385-003
Bank of China: 012-883-0-002136-6
Details at www.worldvision.org.hk