April 06, 2011

Students' drive raised $15,000 for Japan victims

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A donation drive at Southern Illinois University Carbondale to assist victims in the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan raised more than $15,000.

The Japanese Student Association collected $15,382 between March 22 and 31, according to Omar Trinidad, an assistant professor in SIUC’s Automotive Technology program who is assisting the organization. Trinidad’s wife, Mayumi, is a graduate of SIUC and past president of the Japanese Student Association.

There are 23 students from Japan at SIUC. The students each reported their families were safe in the aftermath of the disaster. In addition, people affiliated with the University’s former branch campus in Nakajo, now Tanai City, Japan, were also safe.

Through a letter, the registered student organization is expressing its gratitude to the community for the support.

“We will never forget the devastation that struck Japan over three weeks ago. We will never forget all the men, women, and children that were lost in the rubble. We will never forget the hopeless feeling brought on by the images of destruction. But through all that, we will never forget the love, care, and support from the people of Southern Illinois,” the letter states.

The organization has a blog at http://fundraiser.exblog.jp/, along with a Facebook group, “Aid Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Victims.”

Carla Coppi, director of International Students and Scholars, said she is pleased with the support in the wake of the tragedy.

“Words cannot express how pleased I am with the efforts of the Japanese Student Association in the way they have coalesced for a cause and have been successful in such a short period of time,” she said. “Their performance in this is remarkable.”

Coppi and Tomoe Nishio, a graduate student in linguistic anthropology, said upcoming events not specifically affiliated with the Japanese Student Association, will also offer a way for donations to go to the American Red Cross. The events include activities at local elementary schools, and programs through the International Student Council and International Programs and Services, Coppi said.

Sandra Webster, director of the American Red Cross’ Little Egypt Service Center, said she was “really touched” when the organization contacted her.

“This is our tomorrow,” she said. “These are our Red Cross people tomorrow. They’ve already developed a heart for wanting to give to the community. Whether we live in Japan or in Southern Illinois, we are one big community. That excited me.”

Proceeds from the donation drive will go directly to the Japan Red Cross, or in some instances, where supplies are not available there items will be bought here and sent over, Webster said.

Trinidad said one of the important results of the fundraising effort is a greater understanding among people from both countries, “by the outpouring of caring and support from everyone who passed through.” Prior to the tragedy many Americans might have viewed Japan solely for automaking and financial strength, while many Japanese might have seen Americans strictly for what is shown in movies and television, he said.

“The impact of how people will see each other will definitely change,” Trinidad said. Some students told organizers during the drive that they were donating money they originally planned to use to buy video games.

Nishio said she wondered how she would be able to thank those who are helping in efforts to revive Japan.

“We might need some more time to recover, but I am sure that with warm-hearted aids from all over the world we will survive this tragedy and revive Japan, as our great ancestors have done so many times in the past,” she said. “I wouldn’t possibly be able to speak for those who had lost their lives in the earthquakes and tsunami. I can only imagine how the family and friends who lost their loved ones must be feeling now. Covering up my eyes from the brutal reality in the affected areas wouldn’t do anything -- all I can do is stay strong for the future of Japan. Thank you all who have prayed for Japan for giving me the power to keep going.”