As the headlines keep the world informed of the disaster unfolding in Japan for the last two weeks – a 9.0 earthquake, followed by a tsunami that caused extensive damage to a nuclear power plant – students at California State University, Dominguez Hills took charge. Members of the Association of Political Science Students (APSS), the Student Health and Environmental League (SHEL), and the Department of Political Science held a fundraiser March 14-16. In the three days they were stationed at the East Walkway in front of the Loker Student Union, students raised $2,000 for Direct Relief International, a nonprofit based in Santa Barbara that uses 100 percent of donations for medical equipment and supplies.
“APSS wanted to make sure that we got out there to help [the Japanese] rebuild their country,” says Rochelle Tunstall, a senior who serves as chief of staff of APSS and vice president of SHEL. “For the two [organizations] that are involved, it’s the essence of who we are.”
While students on campus worked to help Japan, others who are actually living and working there shared their first-hand accounts of coping with the disasters. Kevin Maher is a current student in the online Post-Master’s Certificate on Conflict Analysis and Resolution in the Negotiation, Conflict Resolution, and Peace Building program. For the last three years, he has been teaching English at a small college near Niigata City, where he was living at the time of the earthquake. He has since moved to the southern prefecture of Osaka for a new teaching position.
Niigata is near both Fukushima-ken prefecture and Sendai, Miyagi-ken prefecture, the areas most affected by disasters. Maher shares his observations of the Japanese and their efforts to recover and rebuild while still finding more casualties from the earthquake and tsunami.
“In Niigata, I [noticed] that internally, the Japanese people I know are very stressed,” he says. “However, they also have a sense of order or desire to pretend as if everything is normal. People seem to be working harder, doing everything they would ordinarily do. They believe that this work ethic will restore order more than panic or overreaction. However, they are very saddened with everything that has occurred.”
Maher notes that the threat of radiation is more of a concern to populations outside of Japan than to the Japanese.
“They seem to have more accurate information on radiation, and with Nagasaki and Hiroshima as part of their history, I tend to believe more of their data than the scare of foreign media outlets,” he says. “That being said, I am still adhering to western media outlets, and I don’t want to risk any radiation exposure if I can help it. Personally, I have been recommended by a lot of Japanese people to eat a lot of seaweed which contains iodine. The people who survived Hiroshima and Nagasaki were apparently the people who ate large amounts of seaweed at that time.”
Rob Singh, another online student in the NCRP master’s program, lives near Tokyo and teaches English through the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET). He says that the March 11 earthquake was much worse than the 1994 Northridge earthquake, which he also experienced.
“We were spared because we are closer to Tokyo than we are to Sendai or Fukushima,” Singh says. “The junior high school that I work at has an exchange program with a school in Iwate. I am so glad that the students [don’t visit until the summer] every year. The damage and devastation has stuck a chord with all of us. It is especially unnerving because of the consistent updates on the nuclear power plant explosions in Fukushima.”
Singh has made a contribution to JEN, a Japanese nonprofit that supports earthquake victims worldwide. He suggests giving to the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peace Winds Japan, or Good Neighbors International.
Maher says that the experience has taught him about the core values of overcoming obstacles and working toward the greater good in Japanese culture.
“They are a very resilient people with a very practical and logical approach to how to act and react in such a situation,” he says. “They are community-oriented and tend to want to work through a problem even on such a large scale. It seems to be in contrast to my own western opinion that each individual needs to seek refuge or escape. It seems that in Japan, people bond together more in such a situation and work together.”
Other clubs and organizations at CSU Dominguez Hills have established drives and fundraising activities to provide aid and support for Japan’s disaster victims. The Office of Student Life (OSL), the Office of Service Learning, Internships & Civic Engagement (SLICE), Benefiting the Education of Latinas in Leadership, Academic and Sisterhood (BELLAS), Omega Delta Phi, and the UNV 289-Leadership Development class have partnered to collect donations of food, clothes shoes, personal hygiene items, water, and financial assistance. All monetary donations will be forwarded to the Japanese Business Association of Southern California (JBA) to distribute. Kurt Miyamoto, a member of JBA and a member of the College of Business Administration and Public Policy Dean’s Advisory Board, is a member of JBA and has facilitated several networking and project opportunities for MBA students with a number of JBA businesses.
OSL has also launched an Origami Crane Making Campaign. The tradition of creating cranes from origami paper has a long cultural history in Japan and in Japanese communities in the United States, and is symbolic of world peace, healing, and hope. OSL hopes to have 2,000 cranes to send to Japan via the JBA by April 28.
Several Greek fraternities and sororities on campus have also organized activities for fundraising and support. The Tau Chapter of Sigma Lambda Beta fraternity along with Alpha Zeta Chapter of Sigma Iota Alpha sorority co- hosted “Together For Japan,” with chapters from CSU Los Angeles and USC at the Fatburger in Carson. Tau Chapter also set up a PayPal account for members of Sigma Lambda Beta and Sigma Iota Alpha to donate nationwide, and is holding a car wash on March 25. In addition, the Alpha Epsilon Chapter of Phi Iota Alpha Latino fraternity held a Shakey’s Night at the restaurant’s Carson location on March 22 to raise money to donate to the Red Cross, with the participation of Tau Chapter.
For more information on the NCRP program at CSU Dominguez Hills, click here.
For more information on APSS or SHEL, contact Dr. Hamoud Salhi at (310) 243-3982.