International Club continues on-campus fundraiser for Japan disaster relief

International Club members Kanami La Vasani, Tam Huynh, Bopharath Heng and Tomoko Yokoyama collect for the Japan disaster fund in the Village on Monday. (Oliver Yu)

MaryAnne Shults

The Saddleback International Club is holding a fundraiser for victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. They will be in the main quad between 10:00-2:00 p.m. today.

Members have been collecting money all week, both on the main campus and in the Village. Their goal is to collect $2,500, according to Kanami La Vasani, 43, art, who shared her personal concern.

“People are being very generous,” Vasani said. “I have family in Japan—my sister, nephew—and friends too. There were no telephones so I could only reach them by e-mail.”

Her family, living in the hard-hit Miyagi prefecture, survived the disaster. But many did not.

More than two weeks after the unparalleled disaster of a magnitude 9.0 quake, which generated the giant tsunami waves, and subsequent nuclear catastrophe hit this island country, the scale of the disaster is becoming more apparent.

As of yesterday, the National Police Agency reported 11,362 people have died in the disasters. More than 2,000 bodies have been recovered from the sea. Another 16,290 are missing, according to releases by the Associated Press and TIME. About 240,000 are now homeless, sheltered in about 1,900 evacuation centers spread mainly across the devastated northeast but also in metropolitan areas like Tokyo.

While aid is reaching those affected, it is insufficient and too slow. Most of those displaced do not have homes or jobs to return to. The government estimates the cost at $300 billion, which would make it the most expensive natural disaster on record, according to TIME.

With generous donations from the Saddleback community, the International Club has already raised more than $1,000.

In the Village on Monday, Vasani, along with fellow club members, had an Asian-themed table set up near the library with a large paper-mache Chinese New Year mask and origami in assorted colors, made by Tomoko Yokoyama, 32, web design. The largest, a bird made of red paper with an intricate gold floral pattern, perched on top of a white wooden box marked “ASG.”

The four women gallantly made a plea for any amount of money people could spare. Those who made a donation were encouraged to take a small origami from a wicker basket as a thank-you.

“I bought the paper at a Japanese grocery store,” Yokoyama said as she unconsciously played with one of the paper birds in her hand.

Also on hand were Bopharath Heng, 20, international studies and Tam Huynh, 19, chemical engineering.