ACU students and the Abilene community are working together to support the victims of Japan’s three-fold catastrophe. Abilene For Japan is raising funds for Japanese churches and relief organizations.
The nation of Japan has suffered immensely since a magnitude 9 earthquake, the strongest in Japan’s history, battered northeastern Japan. The quake caused a tsunami that was felt around the world, producing waves as high as about 33 feet, according to the BBC. Since then, more than 700 aftershocks have continued to shake the island.
The number of people killed by the disaster was reported to be 8,450 on Monday, with 13,000 still missing, according to the BBC. About 500,000 people lost their homes. However, none of the families of ACU students have been seriously hurt, said Jonathan Straker, graduate student from Bozeman, Mont.
The most recent concern stems from a complications at a damaged nuclear power plant in Japan. The power outages and flooding caused by the earthquake have caused the reactors to overheat, leaking radioactive materials that have contaminated the water, milk and spinach supplies.
People in the area are not immediate danger and have not been evacuated, according to the BBC. Most of the radioactive particles will break down in a few weeks, but test results indicate that the tap water is unsafe for children.
The family of Maya Ohori, senior communications major from Fukushima, Japan, lived less than 50 miles from the power plant. Her mother and grandma left the city, but her father has stayed to help repair the city’s pipes. Conditions are getting better every day, Ohori said, but volunteers are afraid to bring aid to the areas with radioactive contamination.
Ohori is one of several ACU students who have joined together to form Abilene For Japan. The group is manning a table in the Campus Center, at which students and staff can give donations after Chapel.
Donors can choose to give to either Global Samaritan, an international relief organization that is aiding Japan, or one of the churches in Japan with connections to ACU students, Straker said. The churches to receive donations are Mito Church of Christ and International Bible Fellowship.
Abilene For Japan also will be selling T-shirts in the next week or two to raise money, Ohori said. The proceeds from the International Food Festival also will contribute to International Bible Fellowship.
People outside the campus community also are getting involved in supporting Japan. The Abilene Downtown Association is partnering with Abilene For Japan to make aiding the devastated island the focus of its B!G DAY event downtown on April 9, Straker said.
Ohori said he believes the aid comes from pure intentions.
“I think a lot of people just care about Japan and want to unify to help,” Ohori said.
Straker served on a mission team in Japan from 2002-2007. He said the damage done to Japan this month will take five to 10 years to repair, long after the crisis ceases to be news.
“I think people have this idea that Japan is rich enough to absorb it, and they just can’t,” Straker said. “They need help.”
Students can support Japan by giving a donation or by serving on one of the relief teams that Global Samaritan will send out this summer, Straker said. Straker also urged the campus to continue encouraging Japanese students.
“It’s going to be very emotionally taxing on the students here and their families for a long time,” Straker said. “Continue to pray for them.”