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Aiding Japan

Hawaii residents have raised more than $1 million for disaster relief

By Kristen Consillio

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 02:16 a.m. HST, Apr 03, 2011


Hawaii residents are opening their wallets for the victims of Japan’s disaster like never before.

The outpouring of support — ranging from students at Pearl Harbor Kai Elementary collecting pennies to a Waikiki benefit concert expected to draw about 2,500 — has become the largest foreign relief effort in Hawaii’s recent history.

Within two weeks of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, the American Red Cross Hawaii State Chapter received $640,000 in contributions from Hawaii residents. By comparison, residents sent in $618,000 in the first two weeks following Hurricane Ka­trina, and collections after last year’s Haitian earthquake totaled $190,000 at the two-week mark.

When donations to the Japan-America Society of Hawaii are added, the two-week total for tsunami relief exceeded $1 million. That figure will certainly grow.

“This is far, far beyond anything else we’ve done — far above other disaster relief fundraising or support operations,” said Ed Haw­kins, president of the Japan-America Society of Hawaii.

The estimates of donations to Japan from Hawaii do not include donations sent directly to Japan or sent directly to mainland organizations helping with the relief effort.

Clearly this disaster has touched Hawaii residents deeply.

In two weeks, Hawaii raised more than half of the $2 million the state collected in nearly two months for Hurricane Ka­trina. It took six months for the Red Cross Hawaii chapter to raise $2 million in donations following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“It seems like there’s more of a sense of urgency (compared with Ka­trina and Haiti) and people feel really strongly about this and they really want to help,” said Hawaii Red Cross CEO Cora­lie Chun Mata­yo­shi.

Matayoshi said she expects the Japan campaign to set a new rec­ord for Hawaii, given the pace of donations so far.

TIPS FOR DONATING

>> Don’t contribute cash. Make a check or money order payable to the charitable organization, not an individual.
>> Consider giving to organizations that have a strong history of providing disaster relief, and ask about what percentage of the donation will benefit the relief effort.
>> Don’t fall for high-pressure tactics. Ask questions, and give only when comfortable that the donation will be applied to help the cause. Legitimate charities won’t pressure consumers to donate and will provide as much information as a consumer seeks.
>> To avoid sham solicitations, contact the charity directly before giving a donation by email or to a door-to-door solicitor.
>> Be wary of names that sound similar to reputable organizations. Scam artists sometimes use names that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate charities.
>> Review the attorney general’s database of registered charitable organizations at ag.ehawaii.gov/
charity
.

Source: Hawaii Department of the Attorney General

“There is a special bond and genuine friendship between Hawaii and Japan,” said Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz, whose office has taken a lead role in coordinating statewide fundraising efforts at www.aloha­for­japan.com. “It goes beyond economics — there are strong family and cultural ties. We are simply doing what friends do during a crisis. We help one another, support one another and share our aloha.”

Hawaii’s ties to Japan begin with the 22 percent of the population that is Japa­nese or part-Japa­nese. The Japa­nese culture is embedded in the fabric of Hawaii. Japan is also the single most important foreign market for the state’s tourism industry, comprising about 17 percent of all visitor arrivals.

“We’re related to a lot of the people, a lot of our ancestors are over there and a lot of friends and a lot of the businesses even have connections here,” said Mata­yo­shi.

“We’re both islands, and we were threatened by the same tsunami that hit them (Japan), so it’s even closer because it could happen to us,” she said. “People (who are donating) feel like wow, we’re so lucky that we escaped having the same fate.”

The tsunami caused $22 million in property damage in Hawaii and forced the closure of two hotels on Hawaii island. The Hawaii Tourism Authority predicts Japa­nese arrivals to the state will drop by 45 percent this month.

“The impact is so immediate, it’s tourism, it’s everything that’s impacted,” said Haw­kins of the Japan-America Society. “The large Japa­nese-American population, the cultural ties, the relationships, the family ties — there’s this kinship relationship between Hawaii and Japan, and it just pervades.”

The disaster has touched Hawaii residents of all ages.

Eleven-year-old Ashley Oh, sixth-grade student council president at Pearl Harbor Kai Elementary, helped launch a school initiative last week, encouraging each student to donate at least $1.

“To me personally this is important because I know that there’s people out there who need help,” Oh said. “I know some of my friends who have relatives out there, and they don’t know if they’re OK or not. If I were out there, then I would be hoping that someone would help us.”

The nonprofit Japan-America Society, which provides educational and outreach programs to promote relations between Hawaii and Japan, has raised $320,565 from 162 donors as of March 31, according to its website. About 40 volunteer groups have sought to partner in the organization’s fundraising initiative, which goes directly to the Japa­nese Red Cross Society, Haw­kins said.

The local Red Cross has been contacted by roughly 200 businesses and groups seeking to partner with it to raise funds. CEO Mata­yo­shi said last week she had signed third-party agreements to raise funds with about 100 businesses and groups and is signing more contracts daily.

Donations to the local chapter will be funneled through the American Red Cross, which determines, along with the Japa­nese Red Cross, where to designate the funds.

The American Red Cross has already given $500,000 to the United Nations World Food Programme and committed an initial $60 million to the Japa­nese Red Cross last week for medical care as well as food and shelter, Mata­yo­shi said.

AID CALENDAR

The following is a sampling of upcoming fundraising events. For a more complete list, see www.honolulupulse.com. Send event listings to features@staradvertiser.com.

>> “Beachfront Aloha for Japan” will be held from 4 to 8:30 p.m. today at the Pacific Beach Hotel on Kalakaua Avenue, with entertainment by Palani Vaughan, Bruce Shimabukuro, Johnny Helm, Jeremy Hirokawa, juggler Greg Gabaylo and others. Highlights include massage and nail stations, food booths and a silent auction. All donations collected will benefit the Aloha for Japan relief effort.

>> Donations will be accepted for the Aloha for Japan fund at the Taste of Marukai event from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Marukai Wholesale Mart, Dillingham (2310 Kamehameha Highway), featuring specialty dishes by Nobu Waikiki, samples of more than 50 sake, live entertainment and more, $95. Proceeds benefit the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, the Honolulu Chamber of Commerce, Honolulu Japanese Junior Chamber of Commerce and the Hawaii United Okinawa Association. Tickets available online at www.marukaihawaii.com.

>> An “Aloha Friday for Japan” event will be held downtown from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday at Tamarind Park, with “Aloha for Japan” T-shirts on sale for a minimum $20 donation. Entertainment by Christian Yrizarry and Beach 5. Donations will go to the Hawaii state chapter of the American Red Cross and the Japan-America Society of Hawaii.

>> The Dragon Upstairs is hosting a classical music night and fundraiser for Japan’s earthquake and tsunami victims at 8:30 p.m. Friday. Performing will be pianist Yoko Matsui and vocalist Takamasa Yamamura. There is a $10 cover charge. The Dragon Upstairs is located at 1038 Nuuanu Ave.; call 526-1410.

>> Yoga studios across Oahu are partnering with taiko artist Kenny Endo to host “A Prayer for Japan” starting at 6 p.m. Friday at Unity Church of Hawaii on Diamond Head Circle. The event will start with a series of sun salutations, followed by a performance by Endo with guest Jake Shimabukuro. The suggested donation of $20 will benefit the Japan Red Cross. Call 292-8375 or email info@sanghawaii.com.

>> Twenty-four restaurants, including Le Bistro, Pagoda, Hukilau Honolulu, Murphy’s Bar & Grill and Hy’s Steakhouse, are collaborating to raise funds for Tohoku University Hospital in Sendai, Japan. The “With Aloha” event will be held at Pagoda Hotel from 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday, with a crane-making booth, silent auction, wine- and beer-tasting stations and entertainment by Brother Noland, Juke Joint and Ka‘ala Boys. Tickets are available at www.withaloha.org for $50, or $60 at the door. Monetary donations can be made online, or by mail to Tohoku University Hospital-Japan Relief Fund, 1000 Bishop St., Suite 610, Honolulu 96813. Checks should be made payable to Tohoku University Hospital-Japan Relief Fund.






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