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SAIT sends message of hope to Japan

18/03/2011. 1000 paper cranes are folded by students at the international student center during international students days at SAIT. In this image: Photography by Deborah Powell

The SAIT community is doing its part to raise money for the Japan disaster relief fund.
Students and organizations throughout campus are planning events and fundraisers to support the people who have been affected by the recent disasters in Japan.
Saki Okawara, first-year business administration student, has family in Japan whose lives have been impacted by these disasters.
“I couldn’t sleep,” said Okawara after she first heard about the March 11 earthquake and subsequent tsunami.
Unable to reach her family for most of that day, she finally received a message on Skype from her father telling her that her parents and her four siblings were all safe.
“I was very relieved,” said Okawara. “But, I am still worried about all the nuclear radiation.”
Okawara’s family lives only 30 miles away from the quake-damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant. They’ve been stranded without enough fuel in their vehicle to evacuate and and left waiting for authorities to help them.
Okawara was among the students from SAIT and ACAD at the SAIT International Centre who donated their time to raise relief funds for the victims of the Sendai, Japan natural disaster.
During the two-day, six-hour event, over 40 staff and students from various programs and countries helped create over 1,425 origami cranes. Other participants also picked up paper and folded cranes on their own time to add to the cause.
“It’s comforting to see these people come out and show their support for Japan,” said Okawara.
Ayako Matsumaru was also among the folding frenzy on March 17 and 18.
“To see people spend their time, a part of their lives, to show support is heartwarming,” said Matsumaru, who moved here from Japan four years ago.
Her mother, father, sister and 96-year-old grandmother live near Tokyo and weren’t significantly affected by the quake and tsunami, but they’re still living with nuclear contamination fears.
“I still don’t feel like it’s real,” said Matsumaru.
In order to raise funds the cranes will be sold at the International Centre until the end of the week. The money will be donated through the Japanese consulate.
The International Centre encouraged those who donated their time or funds to also write a message of hope on a SAIT poster that will be sent with the donation as a sign of support.
Yuko Sakurai, SAIT international student advisor, first proposed the idea to hold this event.
“The cranes send a very strong message of hope to the Japanese people,” said Sakurai, who was distraught when she learned of the disasters.
“I didn’t believe it at first,” said Sakurai.
Sakurai was born and raised in Japan and still has family there, but her hometown is on the western side of Japan and for the most part was not affected.
The International Centre is not the only department raising money.
SAITSA is collecting donations at its operations (The Gateway, The Odyssey, The Station Market, and SenSAtions Express) for the Red Cross. SAITSA will match all funds raised.
The Students’ Association planned similar efforts after the Haiti earthquake in 2010, said Kristin Eberth, SAITSA research and communications co-ordinator.
A target goal hasn’t been set, but $240 was collected within the first couple of days and SAITSA hopes to raise more, she said.
SAITSA is currently considering a separate event.
“We think it’s important and we believe that it is also very important to the students,” said Eberth.
Two SAIT journalism students aim to raise money. First-year students Rashelle Ashcroft and Patricia Riley were inspired by  University of Calgary students who held a successful bake sale to raise money for Japan.
“I was terrified and heartbroken when I first heard about the disasters in Japan,” said Ashcroft, who travelled to Japan on a high-school exchange program and still has friends there. “I wanted to help out any way I could so a bake sale seemed like an amazing idea.”
“I felt like I wasn’t doing enough by just donating a few dollars to the Red Cross,” she said.
Riley and Ashcroft are looking for a location to hold the bake sale on campus.

How you can help:
Purchase an origami crane at the International Centre for $1 minimum donation.
Drop your change off at any SAITSA operation for the Red Cross fundraising campaign. SAITSA is matching your donations.
Jessica Cheng, second-year bachelor of applied business administration student, has donated a crane drawing from her first-year of fine art studies at ACAD. The International Centre will auction it off, and the funds will be donated.
Support the Red Cross by purchasing goodies at a bake sale on April 4-8 at the ACAD cafeteria from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. daily.

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