Want to Help Japan? Offer Your Couch

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The website SparkRelief has just been launched, letting you offer your couch or spare room to people displaced by the Japanese tsunami and earthquake. The initiative is similar to CouchSurfing, a social networking site where travelers can stay at a stranger’s house for free. Though it’s certainly ideal for those living in Japan to offer space, people from around the world have placed listings on the site.

And it’s not only a way of providing shelter, but also a way of giving the Japanese a sense of their community back. “What happens when you go into someone’s house and they take you in and start cooking you breakfast in the morning, is that you have that community back again,” said Eli Hayes, founder of SparkRelief. Considering that hundreds of Japanese workers are putting their lives at stake to help cool down damaged nuclear reactors,  giving up a space in your home is trivial when compared to such efforts.

(More on TIME.com: Learning from the Japanese example- what makes a hero?)

The non-profit site gained instant popularity. One post reads: “Young couple live in a larger 2 bedroom apartment in a safe neighborhood in Los Angeles…One guest bedroom and bathroom is available…” Messages have also been posted in Japanese since the founder of the site, Eli Hayes, got translators involved. Victims looking for somewhere to stay can search by geographic location, children and pet preferences, bathroom and parking options.

Hayes told Mashable he was displaced himself, from a forest fire while growing up in Oakland, and he and his brother ended up sleeping on someone’s floor. When a forest fire hit Boulder, Colorado in September, Hayes started hosting victims, but gathering information from shelters wasn’t easy.

When the devastating earthquake hit Japan, Sparkrelief replaced the coffee shop bulletin board and is reaching out to the kindhearted, worldwide. (via Mashable)

Those who wish to help can visit http://japan.sparkrelief.org/