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Students raise funds for Japan disaster relief

By Ruby Gee     3/31/11 7:00pm

In response to the recent devastation in Japan, students have been banding together to raise money and awareness for victims of the natural disaster. Rice's Japanese Association of Students and Scholars responded within days of the catastrophe with boba sales at all of the colleges and widely publicized donation requests. Students from Duncan College, Hanszen College and others have also found their own way to help out through events such as Mr. Duncan and Makeruna Japan.

Eastern Japan was hit on March 11 with a 9.0 magnitude earthquake — the most powerful earthquake the nation has experienced since records have been kept. The earthquake triggered a 98-foot tsunami and damaged nuclear power plants in Fukushima, Onagawa and Tokai. According to a statement released from the Japanese government, the cost of this natural catastrophe could reach $309 billion, making it the most expensive natural disaster so far in recorded world history. Over 10,000 casualties have been reported thus far.

Jones College senior Rodolfo Velasquez Lim was the primary coordinator for the Boba Tea sales hosted by JASS at all college commons on March 17 and 18. Lim said that while he did a lot of work, he saw a many others do extra work, like decorating the collection boxes, to make the fundraiser a success.

"I thought because we live here [in the US] and Japan's so far away, the support wouldn't be as big," Lim said. "I guess by making it at every college, I made it easy for everyone to participate … so the response was much better than I thought."

As JASS also collected donations during the sales, they were able to raise approximately $3,200 in profits. Lim said that he was surprised by the generosity, as he initially only aimed to cover the cost of the 220 teas he bought from Teahouse.

"In the donation box, there was a check for $100 … 100 bills" Lim said. "I was really happy [with the results] — I didn't know there was so much cash lying around at Rice."

JASS also publicized and collected donations at the annual Lunar New Year Showcase on March 19. JASS will also be collecting donations at its booth at the ADVANCE World Beats culture fair on Apr. 1.

"I think a lot of people are concerned and willing to donate — they know it's going to the Red Cross and not just us," JASS President Lily Ito said. "I've been pleased with the response, even though there's not much we can do from a distance."

Ito, a McMurtry College senior, said she is looking into collaborations with universities across the nation for the "Million Cranes" project and a local Japanese organization for a talent show.

"I think [these fundraising efforts] bring the community together, which is good," Ito said. "I think the only thing we have to kind of think about now is if people are going to [continue to] be concerned for the next two weeks."

Rice graduate student Makiko Hirata is organizing a benefit concert that will take place on Apr. 4 in Alice Pratt Brown Hall. Faculty and students, as well as non-Rice classical musicians, will be performing at this free concert. The Japanese Association of Greater Houston will be collecting donations at the door and donating the proceeds to the Red Cross.

Duncan College held "Mr. Duncan," in which contestants were auctioned off to raise money for the Japanese Red Cross. According to Duncan College Master Luis Duno-Gottberg, $1,200 was collected for Japan. Duncan sophomore Estevan Delgado, who was involved with the Mr. Duncan event, said that they had a lot of other attendees from other colleges as well.

"It was a really fun event that allowed the whole college to come together. We had a lot of people from other colleges, too," Delgado said. "I was really impressed with the turnout. I feel it was a success in terms of the number of people that came."

Duncan College will also be hosting a larger event called "Makeruna Japan" that will take place on Apr. 13 at Keck Hall. Co-led by Duncan sophomore Tiffany Chen and Brown College freshman Melody Tan, "Makeruna Japan" means "Don't Give Up."

"Another reason why I was inspired to start this event was that since I am Duncan's Service Committee Head, I wanted to build upon our college's initiative to serve ‘beyond the hedges,'" Chen said.

There will be a panel discussion about the current situation in Japan and a sale of artwork created by Baker College students. Speakers at the event include President David Leebron, two Rice university presidents, Acting Consul-General of Japan at Houston Takahiko Watabe and Japan-America Society of Houston President Greg Clowe.

"Last year when there was the Haiti earthquake, Duncan College put together a successful baking fundraiser," Chen said. "So, seeing how such initiatives can be successful, I wanted Duncan College to do something similar for Japan."

According to Chen, students interested in donating online should soon be able to visit http://www.rice4japan.org to do so. All donations collected will go to the Japan-America Society in Houston under Rice's name and ultimately the Japanese Red Cross.

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