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Palo Alto family launches relief effort for Japan

Students, parents work with Neighbors Abroad to raise money for sister city Tsuchiura

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.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Bill
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2011 at 10:21 am

The costs for rebuilding North Eastern Japan are being floated around at $180B. That's a lot of money, and given that whole towns/villages have disappeared, it's a little difficult to believe that Palo Alto will be able to play any kind of role in "rebuilding" this devastated section of the country.

There's always the possibility of individual families being hosted for 3-12 months by Palo Alto families, and maybe the City could help in that endeavor. This isn't much, but it would no doubt be a real demonstration of a willingness to help at a local level.

The US government has been asked for help by the Japanese government. Best to let them do the job that they are better able to do than anyone in the Palo Alto local government.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2011 at 10:28 am

While I agree with Bill above, I also feel that it is by helping individuals that each of us can help.

Bill, if you read the article, this family were due to host a Japanese exchange student who is now not coming but along with the family, is now living in their car. I think it is wonderful that there are ways to help individuals even if we can't help fix the big things.

Saying this though, I hope that the compassion is for compassion sake and not as a "looks good on college apps" reason. Cynic that I am, I still say thanks to the Carter family for doing something like this to a family you have made connections with.


Like this comment
Posted by It adds up!
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 16, 2011 at 10:46 am

We have to be careful not to throw our hands up in despair - thinking the problem is just too big to address. All of the pennies add up - all of the individual initiatives add up - all of the gestures give hope to an unimaginable scenario - one that we hope to never be a part of. All other towns helping their sister cities make a difference. We must do what we can - each and every one of us - that's what makes a difference - and gives hope to the families who are devastated right now. We can only hope that others would do the same for us.


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Posted by Bill
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2011 at 12:52 pm

> All of the pennies add up - all of the individual initiatives add up

Care to provide any examples?

Rebuilding this section of Japan will be a multi-year project that can only be accomplished by the various levels of Japanese government. Exactly what the US government can do at the moment is unclear. Water/food/Housing is needed immediately. China and Korea are closer, and probably better positioned to provide some help. It will take weeks before the US can respond with massive aid, if it comes to that.

Google has created a "find-a-person" web page, but access to the NET is required. Maybe sending a few old laptops over might be an idea, until one realizes that it would cost more to send the machines than just to send money.

These folks need clothes, generators, and food. Other than money, there is very little that we, as individuals, can do. Suggesting otherwise is foolish.


Like this comment
Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of another community
on Mar 16, 2011 at 1:04 pm

If the house of Bill Gates is destroyed, will there be anyone raising money to help him rebuild the house? I don't think so.

Japan is a rich, powerful and democratic country. The government is functioning just fine. I don't see the point of us raising money, which is going to be negligible anyway, to help them rebuild.

Furthermore, I'm against teaching kids this kind of patronizing attitude towards other people. It has become so prevalent these days for American kids to think as if they are the messiahs and should inject themselves into everything happening around the world. In a young age they already feel that they are superior, that they are the protectors, the saviors of the world.

Mind our own business, please. Build this country. Take care of yourself and our own people. Make concrete contribution to this society. Do your chores. Plant a tree. And study hard. We Americans are not the saviors of the world. We can hardly make our own ends meet.


Like this comment
Posted by Mother of an Japanese exchange student
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 16, 2011 at 1:20 pm

My heart goes to the Japanese people with best wishes!


Like this comment
Posted by Former Student of Keiko Nakajima
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 16, 2011 at 3:54 pm

Thank you Mother of a Japanese Exchange Student for being the first to say something thoughtful.

Although I am not surprised that yet another Palo Alto Online comment section has turned to a tone of cynicism and unnecessary debate, an article like this one deserves none of these comment and only the full compassion that I know a community like Palo Alto is capable of. Shame on you "Resident" for even bringing up what looks good on college applications, you are setting no kind of example that student like me want to observe.

My heart goes out to the Japanese people and I wish for a speedy recovery!


Like this comment
Posted by Mother
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 16, 2011 at 8:36 pm

God bless people of Japan to survive this catastrophe. Our heart is with you.
There are many families in US who are willing to host 3-6 months guests. How to approach? I guarantee that even as china and Korea being closer there many more families in need.


Like this comment
Posted by Ann Pianetta
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 16, 2011 at 9:47 pm

I think it is admirable for an 8th grader to take it upon himself to fundraise for the Japanese in their time of need. They may be considered rich and democratic but that shouldn't stop us from offering our help in any way we can.

Having traveled to Japan with Ms. Nakajima and her students I have found the Japanese society is a very generous and gracious one. We were given the royal treatment for the two weeks we toured Japan.

The Japanese government has many Sister Cities in the United States and actively works with them to create a cultural bond between the two countries. They take this very seriously and have so for at least 50 years.

I would expect Japan to reciprocate in helping us in our time of need if we experienced a terrible earthquake. That is who they are. Ready to help.


Like this comment
Posted by Alex Pianetta
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 17, 2011 at 3:10 am

"Japan is a rich, powerful and democratic country. The government is functioning just fine. I don't see the point of us raising money, which is going to be negligible anyway, to help them rebuild. "

You do realize that the Japanese government donated money to help us after Katrina, right? Or are you one of those people who think that this is karma for Pearl Harbor?


Like this comment
Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of another community
on Mar 17, 2011 at 10:06 am

The United States government, and many other governments and international organizations, are helping Japan right now. There are many established organizations to which one can donate to help the Japanese people.

There is a difference of donating money and raising money. In my view, a person or an organization raises money when one believes that he/she has something unique to offer, that he can better utilize the money for the causes than others, or that he thinks there is an uninformed or untapped mass which he can reach better than others.

Otherwise it is better to just donate directly to well-known organizations that you trust.


Like this comment
Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of another community
on Mar 17, 2011 at 10:16 am

And again, I don't think we should encourage kids to raise money for this or that grand causes. I mean Girl Scout cookies are great. But certain business and issues for adults are just that - for adults.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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