Groups form Japan Support Coalition

Puget Sound students have always shown a concern for their community, both on a campus level and from a city-wide standpoint. Recently, students have been reaching even further in response to the recent natural disasters that devastated Japan.

According to students Imari Romeo and Melissa Merrigan, the Japan Support Coalition, headed by Skylar Bihl, consists of the Japanese cultural groups on campus, the Office of Spirituality, Service and Social Justice (SSSJ), Circle K and Interfaith Coordinators.

“Because the earthquake occurred at the beginning of spring break, we weren’t able to organize any efforts right away. But after spring break, people were able to get together to figure out ways to show our support for Japan,” Merrigan said.

“It is a great way to get people together because it involves so many groups, which I think will also allow us to have a big impact, especially for such a small campus. It’s nice to see the campus community come together for this one cause,” Romeo said.

According to a press release on the University’s homepage, the Office of Spirituality, Service and Social Justice and the Japan Support Coalition have both organized several efforts on campus to raise awareness and funds for Japan. The proceeds from fundraising will be given to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) in order to help the people in Japan. UMCOR, with whom Puget Sound worked with last year during Haiti Response Coalition relief efforts, will give 100 percent of the funds raised directly to the relief effort chosen by the Japan Support Coalition.

One fundraiser provides students with the opportunity to purchase Japan Relief Fund T-shirts for $14.40 at T-shirts are available for purchase until the end of the academic year.

Today, April 15, students may join the Japan Support Coalition for mochi dessert and crane folding from 12 to 2 p.m. in Wheelock Student Center room 201. Students are also welcome to give to the donation boxes that will be in the S.U.B. until April 22. The hope is that the cranes will number to 1,000, and be made into a paper mobile to send to our sister school in Japan to show our solidarity, according Merrigan. Although this does not raise any money, it is the cultural significance of 1,000 paper cranes that is important and meaningful—1,000 paper cranes is symbolic of good fortune and happiness.

Also, from April 18 to 22, students may donate their meal points to the relief work for Japan. Last year, students donated meal points in a relief effort for Haiti and raised almost $1,600, according to a Puget Sound press release on April 6.

“There are different ways to help besides donating money, such as attending meetings and making cranes. I think we really need to stress that,” Romeo said.

Some other events held within the past couple weeks were an Okinawan Taikio and Dance performance by the Washington Okinawa Kinjin Kai, a bake sale by the Japan House where students could have their cookie or cupcake personalized with kanji and a trip to the Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America at Granite Falls, where a short service was held. According to an April 6 Puget Sound press release, the Asian Pacific American Student Union raised $620 from its cupcake sale.

Other Puget Sound clubs are also participating in these relief efforts. Circle K will donate the profit from its food bag sales in May to UMCOR, and Hui O Hawaii tabled in the S.U.B. for donations on its Aloha Frida event and throughout the week prior to its annual lu`au. According to Hui treasurer Tiana Fernandez, Professor Makiko Leden directly contacted Hui O Hawaii’s president, Matt Endo, asking if Hui would also give back to Japan. As a result, the club is now also under the Japan Support Coalition.

When asked what she thinks is important for students to know about the relief efforts for Japan, Merrigan responded, “Don’t forget about it. Like with other natural disasters, like the earthquake in Haiti, it’s easy to forget about it two weeks later, but it’s an ongoing situation and even though news stories change, this is a continuous process.”