Japan quake prompts Nanaimo fundraisers

Stories of the devastation and suffering last week's earthquake and tsunami wreaked upon Japanese citizens have inspired some Nanaimo groups to launch fundraisers.

Stories of the devastation and suffering last week’s earthquake and tsunami wreaked upon Japanese citizens have inspired some Nanaimo groups to launch fundraisers.

Villages, hamlets and towns on Japan’s northeast coast were flattened by the tsunami after the 8.9-magnitude earthquake March 11. Thousands of coastal residents lost their homes and loved ones, and have nowhere to go. International news agencies report that survivors in some areas lack food and fresh water and struggle to stay warm with no electricity.

For a group of Vancouver Island University international students from Japan, some of those people are family and friends.

“We are all so worried,” said Sachi Ishibashi. “It’s our families, we want to do something.”

About 50 Japanese students got together Monday and decided to start fundraising, even though some have not been able to contact their families.

They are posting donation boxes are restaurants and manning a donation table at Country Club Centre today (March 19) from 12-4 p.m., then the following Friday and Saturday. Proceeds will go to Red Cross earthquake relief efforts in Japan.

The students are also collecting messages that Nanaimo residents wish to send to Japanese people to help support them emotionally, Ishibashi added.

For updates on their campaign, please go to http://standupforjapan.blogspot.com.

Another group is undertaking the ambitious task of folding 1,000 origami paper cranes at Country Club Centre this weekend.

Nanaimo residents are invited to help create the cranes and also to take them home by donation, with proceeds going to the Canadian Red Cross’s relief efforts in Japan.

The idea for this unique fundraiser originated with Michelle Okawara-Augustine, a Japanese-Canadian with family in the affected region of Japan.

Her family is OK, but her grandparents were evacuated from their home, which is near the failing nuclear power plant.

“In Japanese legend, if you fold 1,000 origami paper cranes, you’re granted one wish,” she said. “We wish to uplift the people of Japan.”

Okawara-Augustine got her colleagues at the Best Western Dorchester Hotel on board and members of the Central Vancouver Island Japanese-Canadian Society, also known as the Seven Potatoes Society, are also helping.

E. Madill Office Supplies is donating the paper for the fundraiser, she added, and several people, including her sister Christie Okawara, will teach people how to make the cranes.

The tables will be set up next to Save-On-Foods in Country Club Centre from 12-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Okawara-Augustine also plans to do a similar fundraiser in another location the following weekend – March 26 and 27.

Please see the Facebook group Cranes to Uplift Japan at http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=197485970273482 or the Seven Potatoes blog at http://7potatoes.blogspot.com for more information.