Yumi Otsuka speaks out about the disaster in Japan and what she's doing to help

Compiled by Chagan Sanathu

Yumi Otsuka is a freshman nursing major from Tokyo.  Japan was hit by an earthquake early Friday morning, March 11, that rated 9.0 on the Richter scale making it the most powerful quake to hit the country.  As a result, three of Japan’s nuclear power plants experienced explosions and began to leak radioactive gas.   According to the New York Times, as of March 23, the official death toll had been raised to more than 9,400, and more than 14,700 people are listed as missing, although there may be some overlap between the two groups. The final toll is expected to reach nearly 20,000. The following is an interview conducted by Chagan Sanathu with Otsuka about her reaction to the unrest in Japan.

Q: Is your family back in Japan? Are they safe?

A: My family is back in Japan. My father was actually at work when the earthquake occurred. He was on the 17th floor of the building, and it was more than just a few shakes and tremors. The buildings were evacuated to a park where it was safer. This was the only thing covered on the news at that time. They had live broadcasts of the tsunami on TV. Trains stopped working and some parts of the country had no electricity. Food was running low. My father waited for the trains to start running again and then had to walk about 20 miles to get home in the cold because of the limited accessibility for public transportation. My family is safe at home, but there are hundreds of people in danger currently.

Q: How did you find out?

A: I woke up Friday morning and had extra time so I was on Facebook. I have some Japanese friends who were talking about it. We have earthquakes in Japan quite often, so I didn’t take it seriously at first. Then I went to Yahoo Japan news and searched for more information. I was shocked that this was really happening.

Q: What was your first reaction?

A: I felt very down on Friday, the day it happened, and didn’t feel like doing anything. I was aware of the fact that people were dying and I shouldn’t feel this way, so I figured that there was something I could do besides just reading news and moping.

Q: How did you get started?

A: I remembered Sae Jin Lee’s speech at the C. Henry Smith Peace Oratorical contest saying that “service should start at home,” and that really stayed with me. I wanted to help serve the people of Japan, even if I am not there because I am still part of them. So I made it happen. Just because I am a minority doesn’t mean that I stay quiet and don’t take any actions.

On Saturday, the day after the tsunami, I had a feeling that I should do something substantial for them, although I am the only Japanese student on campus here. I was on Facebook again and I connected with some Japanese students at Indiana University South Bend (IUSB). Their news feeds read that they wanted to raise money for Japan and I got involved with their ideas. That Sunday, I met with students from IUSB and Notre Dame in South Bend and discussed strategies to raise money.

Q: How much have you raised so far?

A: $1,087.00 from the International Student Club (ISC) Coffeehouse, and $1,000.00 from ISC.

What is your target fund raiser amount?

A: As much as I can get. My personal goal is $5,000 by the end of April.

Q: How did you find the Japan-America Society of Indiana?

A: Well, I am working on fundraising money for Japan with the Japanese students from IUSB and Notre Dame. One of my group members, found this non-profit organization and we have been working with them since. JASI (Japan-America Society of Indiana) donates 100 percent of the money gathered, while other organizations keep some money for administration costs, etc., and as a result less money goes directly to Japan.

Q: How can the Goshen College community help you?

A: Start by reading the news and showing some compassion. How is Goshen College healing the world peace by peace, in Japan? So if you are a true believer in peace, and are a global citizen, help me, help the victims in Japan. You can stop by the accounting office with a check or mail it to them.  Your check can be payable to Goshen College, for Japan earthquake relief. This money, however, is not tax-deductible.

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