After the Quake: BC-JERF update
By Kozue Matsumoto
BC-JERF had a precious experience this past August when a group of students from Tohoku Gakuin University in the Sendai area came to Vancouver. The primary purpose of their stay was to study English. However, since their hometown was heavily damaged by the earthquake and tsunami in March, they also wanted to share their stories about Sendai as well as thank Vancouverites for their support. Hearing their story, BC-JERF decided to help them to deliver their message to Vancouverites.
A couple of young Japanese groups, JaVan Gospel Choir and Japan Love, also came to support the students from Sendai, who are about their age but having a much tougher six months. These groups are a few of most enthusiastic groups who supported Japan with BC-JERF for the last six months.
This was an opportunity to bring together young people from both sides of the Pacific: the ones who have been supporting and the ones who received the support finally met.
What we did was two street donations at the corner of Georgia Street and Granville Street at the end of August. We were a bit worried how much attention we would be able to receive from the public since it had been almost six months from the earthquake and tsunami. Despite our worries, we had great success. A lot of Vancouverites stopped by and donated their coins and bills. We also had a lot of BC-JERF community members helping us out. Some worked with us, others dropped by to show their support. Many of them stayed with us till the end.
Takaaki Saito, the leader of the group, remembers those Vancouver days, “What I felt the most throughout this activity is the generosity of Vancouverites. They stopped by for Japan, a country on the other side of the Pacific, and I received a lot of kind words from them. I feel that this may be the first time after the earthquake that I was able to feel the warmth of people so strongly. This was such a moment to feel the warmth of people outside of Japan.”
He also shared with me the current situation of Tohoku after over six months: “We have almost finished cleaning the mess after the tsunami, and we are now working so hard for the economic recovery. The issues related with nuclear power plants would take a lot longer time; however, we, the Tohoku people, are trying to go forward into the future.
“Although there will be a huge difference in the time of recovery among each prefecture within Tohoku area, we are planning a steady recovery process from where we can. Harmful rumours are causing huge damages, but we won’t be beaten by such rumours but keep going with our Tohoku spirit and power.”
We raised $2,358.50 in total and handed out 2,800 copies of pamphlets to deliver messages about the current situation of the affected area to Vancouverites during the two days (four hours in total).