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Nearly $13K raised for Palo Alto sister city in Japan

Contributions to aid Tsuchiura following devastating earthquakes, tsunami

Local residents have raised close to $13,000 in aid of Tsuchiura, Palo Alto's sister city in Japan, in the wake of the country's devastating earthquakes and tsunami.

The city, which is about 20 miles inland, is hosting close to 200 evacuees from the Fukushima nuclear plant area, where there have been radiation leaks, according to Neighbors Abroad, a volunteer community organization that directs the city's Sister Cities program.

The contributions include a fundraising effort led by students at Gunn High School that managed to collect $2,000 in a week-long donation drive organized by two students from Japan, Yuki Nishimura and Mari Haraguchi, members of the Japanese Club.

Students at Duveneck Elementary School are also doing their part, after being inspired by a fundraising event there on April 1. Stephanie Nemet, a 5th grader, hosted a bake sale with other neighborhood children, collecting $116, which was sent to Neighbors Abroad.

"Obviously, what we are collecting is only a fraction of what is needed, as a gesture of friendship to a sister city in trouble," said Betty Gerard, a Neighbors Abroad board member.

While Tsuchiara was not affected by the tsunami, the preceding earthquake caused significant damage to its city hall. Several homes were also damaged, with problems also reported on its school grounds.

A host of collaborative events for the year between Palo Alto and Tsuchiara have been canceled, including a week-long visit by 16 middle school students and their chaperons. They were set to arrive on March 12, when the disaster struck. At a reception at which the students would have been presented, approximately $3,000 was donated by City Council members as well as by staff and audience members.

A return visit by 16 students from Palo Alto was also planned for July, but will now not go ahead. Also canceled was the annual marathon around Lake Kasamigaura, set for April 17, to which local runner Tim Wong was to have been Palo Alto's representative on an all-expenses-paid visit.

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