After the recent devastation caused by the earthquakes and tsunami off the coast of Japan, the University of Wisconsin community of Japanese students and faculty are banding together to coordinate relief efforts and raise awareness by holding events across campus.
Kuniaki Inove, a Japanese graduate student in atmospheric and oceanic sciences, is helping to promote relief efforts on campus as a member of the Japanese Tsunami Relief student organization. He said efforts have already raised $4,347.
Inove said he began contacting other students native to the country at UW and immediately checked on his family members in Japan. He said though earthquakes are relatively common, the disaster was incomparable to any other natural occurrences he had witnessed.
“It’s unbelievable, I’ve never seen such a disaster in my entire life,” Inove said. “We can’t do anything directly for Japanese people, the only thing we can do in the U.S. is raise money and get American people to continue to pay attention.”
The group has already planned various events on campus to continue increasing student and community involvement in Madison in the relief effort, including a “Taste of Japan” and placing donation boxes at local establishments and several academic buildings.
Inove said all of the donations gathered will go to the American Red Cross, who will transfer the funds to Japanese relief groups.
He also said because UW is a large and diverse campus it is important to get involved in the relief efforts to support international students in Madison and express support for victims of the tragedy.
Many Japanese students at UW may also be affected economically as a result of the quake.
In the weeks following the event, Inove said national and international news stations have given the country less coverage while the dire situation has remained unchanged.
Richard Keller, a UW professor who researches disaster relief responses, said the international response in Japan is well coordinated and he is confident the campus community will organize in support of Japanese citizens affected by the catastrophe.
The resilience of the Japanese population in the face of such a disaster also demonstrates the strength of the state, Keller said.
He also said few reports of crime, as were witnessed in Haiti, show the Japanese priority of taking care of each other and eventually rebuilding the state.
“It’s remarkable seeing reports in Japan that evacuation centers are not overcrowded. It goes to show the strength of the population in the face of harsh conditions,” Keller said.
Since the Japanese are coping with the effects of a tsunami, earthquake and nuclear relief efforts, it’s hard to know if international relief efforts will overlap, Keller said.
He said it will be interesting to see whether Japan remains on the global agenda in the long run and said the nation will likely still be recovering from the events even years from now.
Keller said students can get involved by making a donation and by helping Japanese students at UW by continuing to lend support and remain focused on new developments in the situation.