Japanese group raises money, awareness for tsunami victims

By Caitlin Giddens

As the death toll of tsunami victims in Japan approaches 11,000, Baylor students are raising donations and awareness across campus. The Japanese Student Association has set up donation stations in the Baylor Sciences Building, Hankamar School of Business, and residential and dining halls.

All donations will benefit the Japanese Red Cross.

“We set up the boxes for donations, but we also offer information to students who don’t know everything that is happening in Japan,” Brownsville senior Hugo Tovar, vice president of the Japanese Student Association, said. “Students may have seen what happened in the news, but when they see Japanese exchange students at our donation stations, it gives them a deeper understanding than what they can find in the news.”

After the tsunami and earthquake devastated Japan’s northeastern shores on March 11, nearly 18,000 people have been declared missing and even more are without food or shelter. This devastation ranks as Japan’s deadliest natural disaster since the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake.

But Baylor students aren’t ignoring Japan’s cries for help. Japanese Student Association has raised more than $600 through their donation stations and hopes to raise more throughout the week.

“We will be continuing the donation stations until Japanese Student Association’s spring festival on Saturday,” Tovar said. “This year’s festival will be very special because of what’s happened to Japan.”

The festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday in Morrison Hall. Students are encouraged to attend the annual event and bring donations.

“I’d love to see students show more support for Japan,” Tovar said. “But if they can’t go, they can pray for Japan. These people need prayer.”

Baylor Japanese lecturer Yuko Prefume was visiting Tokyo when the devastation hit. She didn’t realize the magnitude of the earthquake at the time.

“Japanese people are used to earthquakes and tsunamis. So when it first hit, I didn’t think much of it,” Prefume said. “We thought surely this would stop, but it just got bigger and bigger. So we got ready to evacuate, but we felt like we had nowhere to go.”

After escaping the disaster safely, Prefume hopes Baylor students will get involved.

“If students can, they should drop a few dollars or some change,” Prefume said. “Also, Japanese Student Association needs volunteers to help at the donation stations around campus.”

Students interested in volunteering at donation stations can email the Japanese Student Association president and Haslet senior Sarah Leat.

“I hope the rest of this week continues to raise awareness because the news has forgotten the devastation,” Leat said. “We hope to raise donations and get Baylor students connected to Japan. Students can donate on campus, the American Red Cross or to the Japanese Red Cross. And Japan can always use prayer.”