Students rally for Japan relief

Fundraisers: Plans underway to offer support to sister city.

Pitching in: Sae Kunida and Megumi Koizumi make sushi for Friday’s fundraiser.

Salmon Arm Secondary students were forced to cancel their trip to sister-city Inashiki, Japan, but their goodwill will be travelling there all the same.

On Friday, students who were scheduled to leave today on an exchange to Japan held a fundraiser for their counterparts in Inashiki.

With the help of local Japanese restaurants and families, students prepared and served a sushi-combo lunch to staff and students at both Sullivan and Jackson campuses.

Grade 12 student Taylor Godby, who was to participate in the exchange, said it’s sad the group won’t be going, “but it’s more of a tragedy what’s happening there.”

Student Alyssa Johnson said it’s good to be doing something to help Japan, and she’s hopeful she’ll be able to visit next year.

Teacher Dan DeRosa said the students were expecting to raise $400 from the by-donation fundraiser, and were thrilled to hear the actual total.

They’d raised about $1,350.

“It was way better than we thought,” said DeRosa Monday. “I think the kids were feeling pretty good about themselves when they were done. It was way more than they expected and they were pretty impressed.”

Jong Ae Han, Japanese assistant at SAS, was one of the lunch organizers. Her whole family – mother, father, sister and brother live in Tokyo.

“They’re doing OK, they’re safe, their houses weren’t destroyed, but they’re very worried about the nuclear reactors. Food is almost impossible to get. Fresh produce, bread – even if they come, there are long lineups,” she said, noting that her mom keeps a lot of food in stock but, even so, they’re getting a little worried about how long this will continue.

Along with the lunch, students made 1,000 origami cranes.

“Usually we give it for a get well soon, for people who are sick or to encourage them,” says Han. “The crane in Japan symbolizes the longevity of people.”

Han suggests people contribute money, or encouragement, if they want to help the people of Japan.

“Encouragement definitely helps. It doesn’t cost anything and lightens people’s minds.”

Assisting the high school students prepare lunch Friday were Okanagan College students from Japan who were in Salmon Arm for a five-week language and cultural immersion tour. They flew home Saturday, heading for the Osaka area, south of Tokyo. At the lunch at the Sullivan campus, they were also selling ‘Hope for Japan’  T-shirts the college had ordered.

SAS teacher Pam Chudiak says, along with the $1,300 the students raised, the school district has contributed $1,000 from the exchange fund, and the Spiritualist Church of Salmon Arm donated $500. That total of $2,800, along with the cranes, will be taken to Inashiki by Chris Filiatrault, one of the long-time supporters of the sister-city relationship, who is heading to Inashiki on March 30.

If anyone would like to give something light-weight to be taken directly to Inashiki, Chudiak will make sure it gets to Filiatrault. She can be reached via email at: She would like to receive contributions by this Friday, March 25.

Filiatrault has lived in Japan for 25 years. His spouse and son are there now, in Narita, 100 kilometres outside of Tokyo. He said they’re concerned about nuclear meltdowns and explosions, but not afraid.

He will stay in Japan for three weeks and, while there, will present speeches written by school district superintendent Doug Pearson and mayor Marty Bootsma, as well as messages from students.

Filiatrault is also willing to take contributions from others.

“If it’s paper or gifts of gratitude – I’m not taking a lot of stuff with me, if people are interested in sending things over.”

A group of Salmon Arm residents with roots in Japan are also fundraising for Japanese disaster relief. They have a booth set up in the Mall at Piccadilly, with times of: today (March 23) 12:30 to 5:30 p.m.; Sunday, March 27 – 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday next week from 12:30 to 5:30 p.m.

Spokesperson Junko Sekiguchi says they are selling cookies and gluten-free muffins, and are teaching the craft of origami. All the money will go to the Canadian Red Cross, and donations of more than $10, paid by cheque will receive a receipt.

She says most of the residents involved have family members, friends, or friends of friends living in Japan.


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