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Students organize Sunday fundraiser for Japan

Three Japanese students have partnered up with three faculty members to help those affected by the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. The event will be held this Sunday evening, to raise funds to send to the Japanese Red Cross.

The driving force behind the event is the strong concern felt by Shunji Ukai ’12, Chinami Towatari ’14 and Kohei Takatsuka ’13. They felt helpless watching the newsreels from their home country and compelled to respond.

“The day after the earthquake occurred, we felt so powerless,” Takatsuka said. “We are in America, and we can’t do anything, and we just wanted to do something for the people that were suffering.”

When they began talking to each other and realized they wanted to have a fundraiser event, they were totally new to the process of planning one.

“We were not very familiar about making an event happen here at Grinnell, so we talked with Karen Edwards and Claire Moisan and they provided us with a lot of help,” Ukai said.

These students met Moisan through their volunteer work teaching Japanese in town through the Babel Tower program, Moisan took on the responsibility of organizing crafts for the event. Attendees will be given the opportunity to make origami cranes and donate them to the “Million Cranes for Peace” projected started by a student at Princeton. The fundraiser will include calligraphy/sumi-e painting and a table for making koinobori, a windsock made for Children’s Day.

All three organizers of the event shared their stories about the aftermath of the earthquake. Towatari was unable to contact her father for an entire day, and Takatsuka’s father didn’t get home until more than twelve hours after the earthquake.

Ukai has friends in Tokyo whose houses were completely destroyed.

“They weren’t physically injured,” he said, “but they felt a very strong psychological impact.”

The organizers have drawn on the help of townsperson Monica St. Angelo, who is making food for the event with Towatari. Karen Edwards, the Director of International Student Affairs, and Cecilia Knight who works at the College Library have also lent helping hands.

Other contributors are the Asian-Pacific-American Student Association, who is making bubble tea for the event, and the residents of Chinese House, who will bring dumplings. Finally, Ukai is organizing the music.

These three students have been campaigning for Japan since last weekend at the International Student Organization Cultural Event. At that show they had jars for donations at the front of the stage. They have also been selling white wristbands that say “Pray for Japan” all week during meals outside the Dinning Hall.

“We basically want to keep the awareness up that people in Japan are still suffering, because a lot of times, in the media, they turn to the newest story,” Takatsuka said.

The event was originally going to be just for College students, but with the help of the faculty they were able to open it to the whole community. They hope that through the event they will raise funds and satisfy their desire to give back and support their country in a concrete way.

“Of course, the donation for the event is a huge thing, but compared to the famous people who send ten million dollars it’s not a big amount of money,” Ukai said. “So it’s more about the feeling of trying to help, and making this event happen is a very big part.”

The Fundraiser for Japan will take place this Sunday at 5:30 p.m. at the Arts Center, located in the old Stewart Library downtown. Tickets will be sold at the door for $5 for students and children and $8 for adults.

Editor’s note: The original article stated that the event would be held Saturday evening. The Japanese Festival for Disaster Relief will take place this Sunday evening, May 1, at 5:30 at the Grinnell Arts Center. The S&B regrets this error.

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  • J

    Jackie BrownApr 29, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    The fundraiser is SUNDAY.

    Japanese Festival for Disaster Relief
    Sunday May 1, 5:30 – 7:30 pm
    Grinnell Arts Center (across from Saint’s Rest)

    Featuring authentic Japanese food (yakisoba noodles, nikujaga soup, grilled
    rice balls, and more); Japanese crafts for people of all ages; and music
    performed by Grinnell students Chinami Towatari, Kohei Takatsuka, & Shunji

    Students & Children $5, Adults $8 (at the door)
    All proceeds will be sent to the Japanese Red Cross
    If you are unable to attend, feel free to contribute directly to the
    Japanese Red Cross.