A Riverside entrepreneur wrapped up his first week of hands-on disaster relief near Sendai, Japan. He’s distributing home heating fuel to blacked-out parts of the region paralyzed by last week’s earthquake and tsunami.
A week after Japan was hit by a 9.0 earthquake and a tsunami, Ted Honcharik arrived in Japan with a backpack, a little money and not much else.
He also brought a cell phone. "I’m walking down some stairs, about six flights; if I lose you just call me back."
Sendai is the largest city on Japan’s battered northeast coast. It’s also Riverside’s longtime sister city.
Honcharik, a fuel transportation expert, traveled there days after the earthquake struck. He’s sleeping on the floor of City Hall, and he hasn’t showered in over a week.
He runs a nonprofit organization called the Fuel Relief Fund. Its specialty is parachuting into disaster zones, buying up home heating fuel or gasoline and delivering it to people for free.
While it may sound exhausting and frustrating, Honcharik says he truly enjoys the work. "I tell everybody I get a lot of pleasure out of everyone’s misery. You know, I’ve had family go through Hurricane Andrew in Florida – I grew up there, know what it’s like to be without power for three, four months, lost loved ones and living in horrible conditions, homes destroyed. I’m fortunate enough that I’ve got a good company, good partner who can run the business while we try to give back.”
Honcharik says his organization could stay in Japan for another three months, depending on the region’s needs.