If the tsunami that crashed over Japan had triggered a similar event on the B.C. coast, students at Pearson College would have had a front row view.
The ocean-side Metchosin campus cancelled classes in its floating building and kept to higher ground during the March 11 tsunami warning.
Though the local threat passed without incident, the overseas disaster was top of mind on the campus.
Four of the 200 students studying at the tight-knit international school are from Japan and knew people injured or perished after an 8.9 magnitude earthquake and 30-foot wall of water devastated the east coast of their country.
“It was hard not to be there. I would have rather been in Japan and been a victim than here watching from so far away,” said Kakuho Furuakawa, 18. “It’s hard to help from here, but we had to do something.”
Furuakawa and his fellow Japanese students decided to start fundraising for relief efforts. They recruited support from the rest of the student body and together they started folding paper cranes—a symbol of peace in Japan.
“We handed out 1,000 pieces of origami paper and all week you’d see people folding cranes all over,” said Yukiko Watanabe, 17. “It felt really good to know so many people were supporting us and our county.”
The students brought the cranes to their annual One World end-of-term concert, where they announced at intermission they would gave a crane to anyone who made a donation to the Japan relief fund. They collected $4,000 that night.
The students also held fundraisers on campus, and by the time they handed their donations over to the Canadian Red Cross they’d collected $5,700.
“It was incredible, we raised way more than we expected,” said Masashi Motohashi, 17.
In addition to the donations, Pearson students also sent personal messages of support to the people in Japan in dozens of languages in a video produced and translated by Kenta Mori, 18. The video can be found on YouTube by searching “Hope For Japan, Pearson College.”
In its May 1 operational update, the Red Cross said more than 126,000 people displaced by the disaster remained in evacuation centres. The organization is focused on building temporary shelters, as well as providing medical assistance a social support in the country.
Donations are still needed and can be made online at www.redcross.ca or call 1-800-418-1111.