By Christine Ludin
Yumi Otsuka, a first-year Japanese student, first heard on Facebook about the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that occurred in her home country three weeks ago.
“I had extra time, so I was on Facebook,” she said. “At first I was thinking that this could not be true, because we have many earthquakes in Japan and oftentimes they are no big deal. When I found out it had a magnitude of 9.1, I was shocked,” Otsuka said. She was worried about the Japanese people, but after emailing her dad, she said, “I knew my parents, other family members, and friends were in Tokyo and safe there.”
Thy Phan, a sophomore from Vietnam, said it was horrible to hear about the incident. “I have relatives in Japan,” Phan said. “At the time the earthquake occurred, I could not communicate with them because the phone line was cut. About three hours later I was able to talk with them through the Internet. They are safe for now.”
On March 12, the day after the earthquake hit Japan, Otsuka had the idea of collecting money for the people who lost their family, homes, businesses and communities in Japan.
“I decided that we need actual help, and it is my mission to help the Japanese people,” she said. Together, there are nine students putting this into action. Otsuka has spoken at the Eighth Street Mennonite Church in Goshen, and at the International Student Club Coffeehouse last month to raise awareness and collect money for the fund.
At Otsuka’s initiative, the college has placed donation boxes in Java Junction, the Student Life office, the Recreation Fitness Center, the Leaf Raker and the Welcome Center. “I hope that students become more aware of what is going on in the world and what is happening in Japan,” Otsuka said.
Tamara Shantz, assistant campus pastor and apartment manager, is helping Otsuka with her fund-raising efforts. “The money will all go to the Japan America Society of Indiana, with 100 percent of donations going straight to relief efforts,” she said.
Shantz finds it important to do something for the Japanese people.
“Any time there is a disaster of this nature in our world, there seems to be so little that we can do to help. By raising funds, however small the final tally, we are able to communicate our support and care to the Japanese community both in Japan and to those who are living here in the U.S.,” said Shantz. “It is also one way that we can show our care for Yumi as our sole Japanese student, who is a long way from her family and country, and is in some ways dealing with this tragedy on her own.”
Otsuka has already collected over $1080. “It is my job to help them because I am healthy here,” she said. Otsuka truly believes she needs to help the people in her country in this difficult time. “It makes me happy that I can do something for my people in Japan. It is my mission to help them,” she said.