As Palo Alto officials explore ways to help the residents of Tsuchiura, Japan, a local family has launched a relief fund for the earthquake-damaged city.
John Carter, an 8th grade student at Jordan Middle School, and his mother, Catherine Carter, started a relief fund over the weekend to raise money for Palo Alto's sister city, which was near the epicenter of a 6.0-magnitude earthquake and several aftershocks that followed Friday's 9.0 quake. The city in the Ibaraki Prefecture lost gas, electricity and water services, and thousands of residents had to evacuate because of concerns over a potential nuclear meltdown in the Fukushima Prefecture, just north of Ibaraki.
The Carters were preparing to host Kanjiro, one of 16 students and three chaperones who were scheduled to arrive in Palo Alto this week as part of the annual student exchange. The trip was canceled, but the City Council proceeded on Monday night with its regularly scheduled proclamation honoring the sister-city partnership and expressing concern for the people of Tsuchiura.
John Carter, who attended the meeting, said he received an e-mail from Kanjiro on Friday (March 11), saying that he and his family weren't harmed but that they're now staying in his father's car.
"While we're very disappointed that Kanjiro won't be here this week, we're hoping he can come to Palo Alto another time," John Carter said.
After the the council approved an official proclamation in honor of Tsuchiura, Catherine Carter urged those present to join the relief effort, which students and parents started with assistance from Neighbors Abroad. Anyone who wishes to donate can send a check to Neighbors Abroad, P.O. Box 52004, Palo Alto, CA 94303. Donors should write "Japan Earthquake Relief" in the memo line.
Catherine Carter said that while she and her son are both saddened by the fact that the students had to cancel their trip, "we take great comfort in knowing that they're all safe and we look forward to them someday making the trip to Palo Alto."
Keiko Nakajima, a Japanese teacher at Jordan and JLS middle schools who coordinates the sister-city program, said most parts of Tsuchiura had their gas and electricity restored after a few days, though some sections still don't have water service. She said close to 3,000 had to be evacuated on the night of the earthquake.
Mayor Sid Espinosa said the city is considering other ways to assist Tsuchiura. He said he has spoken with City Manager James Keene and Police Chief Dennis Burns about possible ways to help.
"We're still trying to gather information -- if there's expertise that we can share, if there's urban search-and-rescue experiences that we have or information that can help Japan, we'll be pursuing that," Espinosa said.