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Vancouver Observer article leads to help from kids at Vancouver Talmud Torah for young Japanese earthquake survivors

Masumi Kikuchi's heart wrenching Vancouver Observer story about the devastation the Japanese earthquake inflicted on her hometown brought two far flung communities of kids together. 

Last spring, I wrote an article in the Vancouver Observer about helping my hometown region recover from Japan's devastating earthquake. Several months later,   Jennifer Shecter, the communications director of Vancouver Talmud Torah (VTT), a private Jewish elementary school, contacted me.  She had read my article and been moved by it. This led to a phenomenal connection between the children at VTT and the kids in my hometown who had survived  the Japanese earthquake.

Some of the school's Grade Two students were doing a fundraising project involving oragami and wanted to donate funds to help children suffering in Japan, Shecter told me. She asked me if I would connect her with the kids in my hometown.

I visited VTT and  I was quite impressed by what the  students had managed to do all by themselves.

To help them kids reach out to Japanese earthquake survivors, I coordinated with things with the  school I attended as a child. It was in the tsunami-affected area. The teachers in Japan ware so happy to hear that Canadian children wanted to help.  I received  $265 from the kids. Later and donated enough to round the donation up to 30,000 yen (around $375).
My father  graduated from that same school in Japan about 60 years ago.  He went to the school in my place and gave the donation to the kids.
Some of these children had been through terribly difficult times. Their parents had lost their jobs and cars to the waves. One boy  lost his father to cancer several years ago, and then lost his single mother during the quake.
The teachers used the money that the students from Vancouver had sent to buy gift cards for their students in need.
I visited the school in December 2011. The school was about five kilometers from the ocean, so it was luckily not  hit by the tsunami (although one of the schools in Miyagi Prefecture was closer to the shore, and more than 70 children were killed by the waves). 

When I came to the school, students there gave me a hand-made poster of thanks from the Japanese school (Kamaishi Kosano elementary school). Now it is in Vancouver.
A poster of thanks from Kamaishi Kosano school.

Also, I was introduced to one extraordinarily generous Vancouver boy by my friend. 

Aldo is seven years old, living in Vancouver, Canada. He was looking for someone in Japan whom he could help. He wanted to give the money he received on his birthday to them.

This is the letter from him:

Hi my name is Aldo, I am seven years old. I had my birthday and each year I ask for money. I take half and buy one gift, and the other half I give to our community. This time I chose you, because you had a Tsunami. I am very sorry you had a Tsunami. I hope it never happens again. I hope you can buy a better house with the money. I want you to buy some extremely fun toys. I hope this will help you!

What a sweet boy he is, I thought.

But how to use his gift? I was asking around at the school and among other people. Someone graciously refused this proposal so I chose my cousin's family.

They had a new house in Ryoishi, Kamaishi. Now, they cannot find their house, two cars nor even one picture of their life before the tsunami.

They were quite happy and impressed by Aldo’s sweet behaviour as were the volunteers there, too.

There are several volunteers  -- university students -- in Miyagi prefecture to help the quake-affected kids study. They could not help shedding tears when they heard that a young boy from Canada was giving up his birthday gift in an effort to help them.

Thank you again, Aldo. Thank you again for the kind support for Japanese children. 

For more photos and information, please visit the Kamaishi website in English and Japanese. 

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