Japanese Student Org Fundraises for Tsunami Victims

UCSD students have formed a coalition to raise money for victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that devatstated Japan.

The Japanese Student Association teamed up with other student organizations — including the UCSD Rady School of Management, International House and the School of International Relations/Pacific Studies — to form the fundraising group Help Japan.

“Many members of JSA have friends or family or know students studying abroad in Japan,” JSA Vice President Internal Yuta Morinaga said. “I know of at least five students studying abroad in Japan that had to come back [to campus] last week.”

JSA initially had a goal of raising $1,000 for the Red Cross through a donation website, but then changed their goal to $10,000. The group reached the goal on March 21 and its current fund surpasses $11,000.

Although JSA first planned to send funds directly to the Miyagi Prefecture — one of the coastal communities affected by the tsunami — JSA announced via its Facebook page that all proceeds will benefit the Japanese Red Cross due to the declining value of the U.S. dollar in Japan.

The Japanese Red Cross will be providing first aid, emotional support and relief items to those displaced with mobile clinics and shelters.

Japan is still recovering from both the earthquake — measured at a record-breaking 9 on the Richter scale, and the world’s fifth-largest since 1990 — and the subsequent tsunami that struck about 250 miles northeast of Tokyo.

The National Police Agency of Japan reported that the current death toll has risen to 10,901, with 17,649 unaccounted for, as of March 28.

The country is also grappling with the threat of nuclear emergency, after nuclear plants in Fukushima were wrecked by fire and explosions caused by the tsunami.

The earthquake has affected members of the UC system as well.

There are 32 faculty members, staff, researchers and graduate students that work with the UC’s partner institutions in Japan, and about 80 UC students currently registered with the Education Abroad Program.

Because of the travel warning issued by the U.S. Department of State, the UC system suspended all of its EAP Japan programs.

UCSD spokesperson Christine Clark confirmed that all 13 UCSD students studying abroad in Japan have returned.

On March 16 and 17, members of the coalition from the UCSD IR/PS program also raised money by selling onigiri, or traditional Japanese rice balls. Help Japan also held a fundraiser with Tapioca Express on March 29.

JSA has also been tabling on Library Walk this week to promote the March 31 Matsuri festival — an annual cultural event featuring traditional Japanese food, games and performances. At the festival, the Help Japan campaign will have a donation booth.

Students can donate money or write letters and messages on cloth resembling the Japanese flag, which will be sent to prefectures most affected by the tsunami.

Visitors can also make paper cranes — Help Japan plans to send 1,000 of these with the Red Cross donation as a testament to a traditional Japanese way of expressing good wishes of longevity and wellness.

Morinaga said that campus reaction to the efforts has been positive.

“We were surprised by the support,” Morinaga said. “Without it, we wouldn’t have gotten this far.”

Morinaga added that, although Help Japan has surpassed the $10,000 mark, they plan to raise as much money as they can.

“Other clubs with Japanese students or student organizations like the business frats have contacted us about wanting to help,” Morinaga said. “After the Matsuri festival, our next step is to plan some joint fundraisers with other student organizations.”

The Help Japan plans to finish fundraising in early April.

“Students can [help] by coming up with ways to reach out to Japan,” Morinaga said. “A lot of people came up to us and asked us if donating just $5 is OK, but the amount doesn’t matter. Any form of contribution would help people in Japan stay strong.”

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