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Students partner with university to help Japan

The day after a massive earthquake and tsunami struck Japan in March, senior Ayaka Tanaka watched in horror as images of the devastation in her home country flashed across TV news broadcasts and spread over the Internet. But it also made her determined to help those in need.

“I couldn’t believe this was happening in my country,” Tanaka recalls. “I knew I needed to do something. I thought about how I was lucky to be here in America, and that I could do something here that people in Japan might not be able to do.”

Tanaka is one of several students who have partnered with Northeastern to organize a range of relief efforts for the people of Japan. She and her roommate, Junko Shimazu, established a table in the Curry Student Center where they and other students are selling T-shirts, origami, candy and other items, with donations going to the Japanese Red Cross. Today is the final day the table will be open.

Through donations and a host of special events, Northeastern students, faculty and staff have raised more than $17,000 to support the people of Japan.

At an event with the Asian American Center, students folded 2,000 origami cranes and sent them to Students Rebuild — an initiative created by the Bezos Family Foundation, which works to elevate the field of education and improve life outcomes for children. In turn, the foundation donated $4,000 for reconstruction efforts in Japan — $2 for each crane. Students Rebuild has partnered with DoSomething.org on the effort.

Several student organizations collaborated to make and sell wristbands with the words, “Hope for Japan.” Students have also created a YouTube video with pictures of students holding notes they’ve written to support the Japanese people.

“Doing fundraising events made me realize Japanese people are not alone. I also realized that people can do more than they may think, especially at a diverse university like Northeastern,” Shimazu said.

A week after the tragedy, the University organized a celebration of the strength and spirit of the people of Japan.

At commencement next Friday, Northeastern will present an honorary degree to the people of Japan and to Ichiro Fujisaki, Japan’s ambassador to the United States.