An initial trust fund of 15 million yen contributed by Mr. Yasutaro Imai, the President of "San'ei" a fabric wholesale company, and MRA Foundation as a response to the proposal made by the Japan Center for International Exchange paved the way for the creation of Asian Community Trust as the first fundraising type charitable trust in 1979.
Japan, with a Gross National Product (GNP) that was 1.5 times those of its fellow Asian countries combined, then continued its growth as the second largest economy in the world. During this time, ACT started its activities assisting the people of other Asian countries become self-reliant through cooperation on a private level, and has continued conducting such activities ever since for the past thirty five years.
1980s｜1990s｜2000s｜2010 to present
In 1980, the year ACT started its activities, ACT provided grants amounting to approximately JPY 1.7 million to 3 local projects in Indonesia and Thailand. "The Sumatra Japan-Indonesia Friendship Fund," ACT's very first Special Fund, was also created in June of the same year, when 15 Japanese companies donated JPY 12 million to ACT to be used in providing scholarship grants to students from third year high school to fourth year college in North Sumatra, Indonesia.
Upon the request of the Youth Activities Coordination Committee of Nepal, ACT launched the "Green Nepal Campaign." This campaign made the pages of the Asahi Shimbun June 7, 1982 issue, with the heading "'Green Nepal': Japan's Aid". The campaign lasted for three years, with donations from Japanese citizens being used in tree-planting activities in the mountains of Nepal.
Newspaper article on the "Green Nepal Campaign" (Asahi Shimbun, June 7, 1982)
Dr. Yoshio Umemoto, a professor at the Osaka University of Dentistry, had been providing free dental services to leprosy patients together with young dentists, his students, for more than thirty years since the 1980s. These activities were not only conducted within Japan but were also extended to Taiwan, South Korea and the Philippines. In June 1983, after Dr. Umemoto passed away, the Steering Committee of the Charity Concert for the Leprosy Service Fund, which had supported Dr. Umemoto's philanthropic activities, set up the third Special Fund of ACT, "The Umemoto Memorial Fund for Leprosy" with an endowment of JPY 30 million. (The Fund was renamed as "The Umemoto Memorial Fund for Dental Service in Asia" in December 2000.)
At the same time of the creation of the "The Umemoto Memorial Fund for Leprosy", ACT started its "Asia "Oshin" Scholarhsip Campaign". It is based on the serialized morning television drama "Oshin" which was aired on NHK from April 1983, and gained a record-breaking viewing rate of 62.9% in the 12th of November of the same year.
ACT conducted this donation drive to provide educational support to children who, like Oshin, the drama's main character, are too poor to go to school. This campaign was featured in newspapers such as the Tokyo Sensho Times (July 1, 1983) and in the Editor's Note of the Asahi Shimbun (August 24, 1983) and gained support nationwide. A total of JPY 10 million was raised in the course of ten years.
In 1991, the number of projects and consequently, the amount of grant provided by ACT reached a record high since its creation, with a total amount of JPY 34.5 million provided to 29 projects. In April of the same year, the "Philippine ACT Desk" was set up within the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), an NGO in the Philippines, which was later transfer to the Asian NGO Coalition for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ANGOC) and ended in March 2007. A similar activity, the "Indonesian ACT Desk" was set up within Yayasan Pembangunan Berkelanjutan (YPB, Foundation for Sustainable Development) in 1994, which ended in May 2005.
1992: First case of South-South Cooperation between partner NGOs of ACT
In 1992, ACT started its grant activities in Vietnam. In cooperation with the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD), one of the partner NGOs of ACT in the Philippines, the Vietnam Women's Union (VWU) started the "The Tau Yu Mai Revolving Fund Program," a microfinance project supporting poor women. Receiving not only financial but also technical assistance from ACT and other international organizations, the project grew, institutionalized and eventually separated from VWU. It developed into the TYM Fund, which expanded to become the first microfinance (MF) institution in Vietnam. In 2010, it renamed itself into TYM and was formally recognized as an MF institution by the State Bank of Vietnam.
1995: ACT recognized as an "Authorized Specified Charitable Trust"
In June of 1995, the 15th anniversary of ACT, ACT was officially recognized as an "Authorized Specified Charitable Trust", making donations to ACT tax-deductible.
2000: Collapse of the economic bubble, Adoption of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the United Nations
The recession brought about by the collapse of the economic bubble and the policy of the government to cut interest rates in the mid-1990s caused the drastic decrease in the donations to as well as the yield of interest of ACT. As a result, the scale of the grant activities of ACT also significantly decreased; in 2000, only 9 projects received grants totaling to JPY 6.9 million. This number was just a third of the number of projects and only a fifth of the total amount of grants provided by ACT during the peak of its activities in 1991.
On the other hand, in September 2000, the 189 member states of the United Nations adopted the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of development goals with specific targets to be achieved by 2015. These were: (1) to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; (2) to achieve universal primary education; (3) to promote gender equality; (4)to reduce child mortality; (5) to improve maternal health; (6) to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases; (7) to ensure environmental sustainability; and (8) to develop a global partnership for development.
2001: The Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation (JANIC) as the new ACT Secretariat
In November 2011, the handling of duties of the ACT Secretariat moved from the Japan Center for International Exchange (JCIE) to the Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation (JANIC). The first Executive Secretary, Michio Ito (then Managing Director of JANIC, current President and CEO of Asian Community Center 21) resumed his position after twelve years.
2003: Commencement of Grant Activities in Cambodia
In 2003, ACT broke ground in Cambodia, which was at the time in the process of recovering from long years of civil war and whose 36% of the population was living below the poverty line. ACT first supported a microfinance project in Cambodia. In the same year, ACT resumed its activities in Nepal after 14 years of inactivity, and provided grants for a project that supported children who were victims of child labor.
From 1999, the number of grant projects supported by ACT every year did not exceed ten projects. However, in 2003, 11 projects were supported and this trend continued until present.
2005: Start of the rehabilitation support after the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami
In December 26, 2004, a large earthquake that occurred in North Sumatra, Indonesia triggered a series of devastating tsunamis that affected the coastal areas of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand and left more than 22,000 people dead, making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history.
In order to support the victims and the long-term rehabilitation efforts in the affected areas, the Daiwa Securities Group set up "The Daiwa Securities Group Tsunami Reconstruction Fund" to support the affected areas in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India. This fund would be used for the "mental health care of children," "provision of education opportunities to children," and the "rebuilding the livelihood of the people through microfinance" for a period of ten years, with an additional donation of JPY 10 million from Daiwa every year.
At the same time, the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (JTUC) donated JPY 10 million to the General Fund of ACT, and was used on 3 projects supporting the fisher folks of Sri Lanka and India who were affected by the disaster.
2005: Total amount of ACT grants (35.309 million yen) reached an all-time high
With the gradual recovery of the Japanese economy, the number of projects supported by ACT as well as its total grant amount reached the highest level ever recorded with a total amount of JPY 35.309 million provided to 20 projects. This was not without the support from the donors and settlors of Special Funds, who share the same vision with ACT, and more importantly, from the donations for the rehabilitation efforts in the areas devastated by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami.
2005: Transfer of the ACT Secretariat to ACC21
The responsibilities of the ACT Secretariat was again transferred from JANIC to the Asian Community Center 21, which from April 2005, actively engaged in the publicity of ACT, including the production of a video introducing its activities.
2006: ACT 25th Year Commemorative Party
For 25 years, ACT had received JPY 754 million worth of donations; its trust assets had increased to JPY 400 million; and the grants it provided to 398 projects in 12 different countries and region in Asia had reached JPY 370 million. 2006 marked the 25th year of founding of ACT. To celebrate this momentous occasion, the "ACT 25th Year Commemorative Party" was held in January 20, 2006 in Asia Bunka Kaikan, where the ACC21 office was located and more the 70 people, composed of the founders of the ACT Special Funds, supporting members, donors, members of the ACT Executive Advisory Committee, ACT trustees, Japanese NGOs, business companies, and media, gathered. There were also piano and ancient Chinese flute performances during the party.
2008: Publication of the "Bringing Hope in Asia" a Guide to Creating ACT Special Funds
In order to increase further the quantity of the ACT Special Funds, the "Bringing Hope in Asia" a guide to creating ACT Special Funds, which is a pamphlet explaining the mechanism of ACT and the procedures on creating Special Funds, was published.
2010: ACT 30th Year Commemorative Symposium and a New Record for ACT
To celebrate the 30th year of ACT since its founding, representatives of three local partner NGOs from the Philippines, India, Cambodia were invited to Japan for the "ACT 30th Year Commemorative Symposium," which was held on November 2, 2010. In the symposium, the past activities of ACT were examined and its prospects for the next thirty years were discussed.
ACT also broke its record for the third time in 2010, when its total grant amount for 21 projects in 7 countries reached JPY 33.624 million.
2011: Support for the Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami victims from the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami victims
In March 11, 2011, the Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami occurred and took tens of thousands of lives. since the creation of the "The Daiwa Securities Group Tsunami Reconstruction Fund" in March 2005, ACT has continued support for Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India, the three countries affected by the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. After the Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami, the Secretariat received numerous messages of support for the affected people from the residents of areas devastated by the Indian Ocean tsunami as well as local NGO partners. Even the more than 1,700 farmers from South India, who are earning just enough to put food in the table, raised funds and donated a total of USD 2,000 after hearing about the disaster in Japan. These funds were handed over to the ACT Secretariat and were donated to the disaster victims.
2011: 6th Year of Indian Ocean Tsunami Reconstruction Support and the Addition of New Support Areas
2011 is the sixth year of reconstruction support in the affected areas of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. Due to the changes in the needs of the locals, ACT reviewed and revised its support areas. From 2011, the "promotion of exchange and cooperation, and the sharing and spread of knowledge and experience among tsunami victims" was added.