GOSHEN — After Goshen College freshman Yumi Otsuka saw what happened in her native Japan, she was at first frustrated. Then she was concerned about her family.
While her family is in the Tokyo area and not directly threatened by the disaster, she did something about her feelings for her homeland. She began a fundraiser to help victims there.
“I hope I can be a part of this,” she said one evening last week on the GC campus. “Hearing the news every day makes me sad. It hurts me to see them dying, because of a lack of food.”
Otsuka said she decided to help raise funds for Japan during a March 19 talent show hosted by the International Student Club at GC. She said people in the audience at the show helped give her a good start.
“I am excited to get the campus involved,” she said.
Otsuka said she has made six collection boxes and planned to get them around the campus — at the dining hall, the Java Junction coffee shop, the rec center, Welcome Center and snack bar.
She said potential donors can e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org or send contributions to the Goshen College accounting office on the campus. She explained she is being helped in this effort by Japanese students at Indiana University South Bend and the University of Notre Dame.
“I will send the money to the Japan-America Society of Indiana,” which has an office at Indianapolis, Otsuka said, and the money will go to a non-profit agency in Japan. She said 100 percent of the funds will go to aid in Japan — there are no administrative expenses.
“I want to thank those who donated (March 19) to help me and my country,” she said. “I appreciate them so much.”
Otsuka’s parents are in the Tokyo area but her father went to school at Sendai, which was struck the hardest by the deadly tsunami on March 11.
“I have not been to Sendai, but my dad went to school there and he has friends there,” she said. “He’s sad. This is so much for me.”
Otsuka, 18, is a first-year nursing major at GC, after studying the past three years at Bethany Christian High School. She followed in her brother’s footsteps in attending BCHS. Her older brother, Ryo, is now a student at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Their oldest brother, Shun, lives in Osaka.
She said her father, Tsutomu, is an engineer with IBM, and her mother, Yoshiko, sells real estate.
Otsuka explained that her father was in his office on the 17th floor of his building in Tokyo when the magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck off the coast of Japan. When the building started shaking, he walked down the stairs to the street.
“There were so many people in the streets and parks,” she said. “We knew what to do, because we have had earthquakes in Japan.”
But the tsunami wave that followed caused even more damage than the earthquake.
Happy to help
Otsuka said she usually talks to her family about once a week now, while it had been monthly in the past. She and her father both have iPhones, she said, and they talk on them, as well as using Skype.
She said she is pleased that she can help others, even though she is just beginning her training to become a nurse.
“It makes me happy that I am helping people already. Not medically, but helping,” she said this week. “I can make a difference even though I am pretty much alone.”
She estimated that her fundraising campaign may continue through April.
“They need the help right now,” she stressed. “I need all the help I can get.”
Otsuka can be reached at 574-215-5291.