CHESTERTOWN, MD—As part of a weeklong Spring Break trip to Japan, a group of Washington College students will carry goodwill and aid from Kent County to the people of Matsushima, a seaside city ravaged by last year’s tsunami. Their gifts will include a cash donation of more than $7,000 to fund a new library building on Miyato, one of the 33 islands that are part of Matsushima, plus a collection of children’s picture books to start filling the shelves.
In efforts begun soon after the tsunami hit Japan’s coast in March of 2011, the Asian Culture Club and other student groups at Washington College raised more than $2,600 through a campus sushi night, the sale of origami birds, and donations from area residents, many of them members of the Washington College Academy of Lifelong Learning (WC-ALL). More recently, large gifts from the Friends of Miller Library, the Hedgelawn Foundation, and College Trustee Thomas Crouse and his wife, Kay Enokido, a native of Japan, boosted the relief funds enough to cover the estimated cost of a new library space for the people of Miyato.
Professor Noriko Narita, a lecturer in Japanese at the College who is spearheading the relief effort, says the library will be either a small pre-fabricated building or a dedicated space in a larger community building. Whatever form it takes, she adds, it will be named the Washington College Miyato Library.
Narita says the outpouring of help has been touching. “I would like to extend my sincere appreciation to the WAC community, WC-All members and citizens of Chestertown who supported us throughout the year by generous contributions of money, books and prayers,” she says. “They reached out when the Japanese people needed the help most, and deeply touched our hearts.”
The students started collecting picture books over the holiday break, and the community again joined the cause. Appeals went out through the Friends of Miller Library and the Washington College Academy of Lifelong Learning (WC-ALL), who were invited to leave their donations at the Miller Library. “The response has been terrific,” reports College Librarian Ruth Shoge. “We have filled five boxes with books so far. ” Professor Narita is translating some of the donated children’s books from English into Japanese.
Anyone who wishes to contribute to the relief effort is invited to deliver checks (made out to Washington College, with Japan Relief Fund on the memo line) and/or children’s picture books to the Miller Library by March 7, or contact Noriko Narita at firstname.lastname@example.org, 410-778-7861. The group will depart for Tokyo on March 10, 2012 to arrive on the one-year anniversary of the disaster.
The two-day service trip to Matsushima is part of a weeklong visit to Japan (March 10-17) made possible by a generous grant from the Japan Foundation’s Center for Global Partnership (CGP). It was organized by Associate Professor of Political Science Andrew Oros to enhance his course on Japanese politics and foreign policy. Click here to read more about the trip.