Local efforts from around the Twin Ports area are doing their part to help the victims from the tsunami in Japan. The Northland Red Cross is doing all they can, but the Japanese Red Cross wants to remain independent.
“I think that the fact that Japan has more resources than a country like Haiti makes it a totally different situation,” said Judy Hanne Gonzalez, Executive Director of the Northland Chapter of the American Red Cross. “We offer our assistance, but do not force it if they aren’t looking for it.”
Despite the fact that the American Red Cross is not conducting a fundraising campaign, they still are accepting donations from citizens.
“Nationally, the American Red Cross has committed 10 million dollars to the effort,” said Gonzalez. “People can still make donations, and we will pass it on.”
Locally, some groups and businesses have started their own projects to help Japan.
One of these efforts is taking place at a Duluth restaurant. The Zen House a Japanese restaurant with two locations in the Twin Ports, has been collecting money since March 15th to donate to charities in Japan.
The restaurant has signs hanging up telling customers that all the profits from sales of their egg rolls will go to Japanese charities. The restaurant’s owner, Yasuko Holt, was born in Japan and moved to America 25 years ago. Holt said that since she can’t actually be there to physically help the Japanese people, she had to come up with another way to help.
So far, Holt said that her restaurant has raised about $600, which translates into about 120 egg rolls. Customers have responded well to the idea, and Holt said many have probably bought more egg rolls than they otherwise would have since they know they are giving to a good cause.
“The servers let them know it is for the charity and most people think of it as a win-win.” said Holt.
Holt has not decided where exactly all of the funds she raises will go, but she did say that half will go to the Red Cross. She wants to give the other half of the money to a charity involved with pets, who she said are being victimized in a disaster like this.
Along with local businesses, schools from the Twin Ports are also doing their part.
Graduate student Kym Young has started the Students & Community for Earthquake/tsunami Relief at the University of Wisconsin Superior. The group has come up with a unique way to raise money for Japan.
“When we came together to figure out ideas,” said Young. “A couple of our students and staff came up with origami cranes.”
The story of the Japanese origami crane dates back to World War II. A young girl from Hiroshima named Sadako Sasaki was diagnosed with leukemia. While she was in the hospital, Sadako received numerous origami cranes from residents of Nagoya, Japan. The cranes symbolized hope and healing, and gave Sadako the idea that the more cranes she had, the better chance she would have to cure her illness. Sadako made over one thousand cranes but never recovered from her illness. Through the story the crane has come to symbolize hope and faith to Japanese people.
And, just like Sadako in Japan, the efforts of one have spread to many.
“Originally, the idea for the cranes was for UWS alone,” said Young. “Then it blossomed to other places, even as far as Pine City, Minnesota and Madison, Wisconsin.”
The University of Minnesota Duluth is also helping with the project.
“This is an effort across the Twin Ports,” said Susana Pelayo-Woodward, Director of the UMD Office of Cultural Diversity and Coordinator of the Multicultural Center. “The Office of Civic Engagement is working with the Multicultural Center to get the word out to students.”
The schools are asking for a 50 cents donation for the origami paper. The proceeds go to the Northland Red Cross, which in turn will be sent to help the victims in Japan.
“So far we’ve collected just over 100 dollars,” said Young.
If you are looking to help, you can go to UMD’s Multicultural Center and make your donation. UWS is also having folding sessions each day, starting March 28th and continuing through April 8th.
“It’s not so much that we are encouraging people to donate to only the Red Cross,” said Young. “We just want them to help.”
Have you done anything to raise money for Japan? Have you been involved in any of these efforts? We’d love to hear your stories in the comment form below.