Imagine being a student thousands of kilometres from home and hearing on the news that a devastating earthquake and tsunami has decimated your country.
Words can barely describe the horror experienced by Japanese students like Sachiko Ishibashi when she learned a 9.0 earthquake wreaked havoc in northeast Japan.
“It was unbelievable,” said Ishibashi a third-year tourism management student at Vancouver Island University, who was part of a dedicated group of students who raised $22,500 for relief efforts in Japan.
When news spread quickly around the world about the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, a group of about 50 students met on campus to share information and feelings about the disaster. VIU provided a meeting room and access to a counsellor.
“Many of us did not have access to information about the earthquake for a while,” said Ishibashi. “Some of us could not contact our families and friends. It was a very difficult time.”
When they did see pictures on TV, the students couldn’t believe their eyes. The earthquake and tsunami caused extensive damage, blackouts, fires, and explosions at a nuclear power plant.
“Survivors, including parents and friends of students studying at VIU, were directly affected by the earthquake and tsunami and are still suffering from the damage,” said Ishibashi.
The students created the Stand Up for Japan project to raise awareness and funds to help survivors.
One group contacted local restaurants and asked to set up donation boxes. Another group formed a fundraising team and established partnerships with shopping centres and grocery stores, raising money at various sites. A third group focused on getting expressions of community support from Nanaimo to victims in Japan.
“The students did an amazing job,” said Richard Payne, international activity coordinator at VIU. “The students were really in awe at how much Canadians care about Japan and its people.”
Proceeds from the three-week fundraising campaign was turned over to the Canadian Red Cross Society.