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Students: What Can You Do to Help Japan?

April 15, 2011 By: Julie Manhan Category: Campus Life, College Tips, Events, Top Stories

Today, bloggers across the country will unite for Japan disaster relief. Below is the article we’ve prepared, but be sure to check out the Bloggers Unite event website as well. All donations made through this event will be matched by the Ogawa family.

When I first sat down to write this post, I was all prepared to write about how to plan a fundraiser to generate funds for the relief agencies that are providing direct aid to the people of Japan.  I had even come up with a few, what I considered to be, rather clever ideas for these fundraisers.  But as I started to write those ideas down, I began to think of all the students who don’t have the time or resources that would be required.   I found my thoughts turning to the images of the people of Japan that I have seen over this past month - not the pictures of incredible devastation, but the images of resilience and kindness that these people have managed to hold on to, in spite of their world being washed out from beneath them.  I began to wonder if there wasn’t something much simpler and more long-lasting that students - and everyone else - can do to help in this situation and many others.

Support Japan

Photo by Peter Mottola

As I sat there, staring at my blank computer screen, I recalled a blog forwarded to me that contained this excerpt from a letter written by an American woman named Anne who’s been living in Sendai for 10 years:

“If someone has water running in their home, they put out a sign so people can come to fill up their jugs and buckets…I came back to my shack to find food and water left in the entrance way. I have no idea from whom, but it is there. Old men in green hats go from door-to-door, checking to see if everyone is okay. I see no signs of fear. Resignation, yes. But fear or panic, no.”

This is what has struck me from all the news coverage - this sense of community, this willingness to help others when you have little or nothing left yourself, this selflessness.  It made me wonder how I would respond if I were in the same situation.   It also made me consider how having an attitude toward others that is similar to that of our Japanese neighbors would affect our response to this disaster - or any other we may face in our lifetimes.  So, I offer the following suggestions for how to help all our neighbors, both here and in Japan:

  1. Get to know your neighbors. Learn who may be most vulnerable in a natural disaster because of age, illness, or lack of transportation and resources.  Consider their needs when you or your family makes their own disaster plan.  Perhaps you will discover that you have a neighbor with friends or relatives in Japan who has specific needs you can help with.
  2. Take a First Aid class. Having these basic skills is one of the greatest - and most useful -  resources you can share with others.
  3. Volunteer in your community. Get to know the needs in your local community and use your skills and resources to improve that community.  You may discover that  a local group is also collecting supplies to be shipped to Japan or sponsoring a fundraiser to support the aid efforts in Japan.
  4. Take advantage of opportunities to learn more about other cultures. The more we know about the cultures that are different from our own, the more likely we will discover how much we have in common and consequently will have a better understanding of how we can help in an emergency.
  5. Be kind. If we are kind to others day in and day out, it will become easier to know how to respond to others who are in need and to respond with generosity, even when we ourselves are in need.

By all means, when it comes to helping the people of Japan, give what you can - whether its giving a donation, helping organize a fundraiser, or packing up supplies.  The important thing is to do something and to keep doing what you can, even after Japan’s disaster is no longer a headline.

This article is part of the Bloggers Unite event for Japan disaster relief. For more ways to support Japan, visit Bloggers Unite or consider making a donation.  All donations made through this event will be matched by the Ogawa family.