Nelson to match funds for Onagawa, Japan
Nelson city council unanimously agreed Monday to match up to $10,000 in sales of paper cranes for the tsunami-stricken Japanese town of Onagawa.
“It’s a strong sign of solidarity for the people of Japan in general,” mayor John Dooley says. “We’re not sure yet how we’re going to spend it in Japan, but we’ll figure that out as time goes by and we make those contacts.”
Nine-year-old Aedan Osika asked for help folding the Japanese symbol of hope and peace. An ancient story promises anyone who folds 1,000 cranes will be granted a wish.
The smallest cranes have been made into pins, which can be picked up at the Nelson and District Community Complex, Grounded, That Craft Store and KC Restaurant for a donation of $1 to $2. Kids are expected to begin selling them on the street from baskets next week.
Volunteers have folded cranes every day since last week at various places around town. They will be back at it today at the library from 1 to 4 p.m., and tomorrow and Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in council chambers.
Anyone working on cranes on their own can drop them off at the front desk of the community complex.
Meanwhile, a volunteer group agreed this week that money raised in Nelson for Japanese earthquake relief should go specifically to Onagawa, as opposed to the Red Cross or another organization, although a specific project has yet to be identified.
Some donations have already trickled in to city hall, while local musician Jude Davison has declared his concert at the Capitol Theatre on April 1 will be a benefit.
The Nelson Pilots Association has also indicated that any surplus funds from this summer’s flight fest will be earmarked for Onagawa.
Donations can be made by cheque at city hall or at the Nelson and District Credit Union, payable to City of Nelson account no. 26.
• Dooley says city hall hasn’t been able to get ahold of anyone in an official capacity in Onagawa. Although mayor Nobutaka Azumi survived the tsunami, municipal buildings have been destroyed, and they have been relying on a single satellite phone for communication.
At the suggestion of Nelson resident Jimmy Sawada, Dooley was also going to try to contact the Japanese consul-general in Vancouver.
• A second source confirms all the Onagawa students who visited Nelson last October survived the tsunami.
Kim Barker spoke by phone with one of the chaperons, Yasushi Maruoka, who assured her all the students on his tour were fine.
However, he has been evacuated to Yamagata prefecture, and isn’t able to connect with anyone in Onagawa, where there is no power or cell service.
Barker and homestay coordinator Wendy Lacroix have been trying to find students and adults from previous visits, and have been fielding emails from worried Nelson host families.
So far, they have verified four survivors from the 2009 group, and three more possible matches based on online lists. They have also confirmed that another of last year’s chaperons, Mitsuru Sato, is alive. His family is also fine.
• Local media outlets have had little success so far contacting their counterparts in the region surrounding Onagawa. However, Kahoku online network in Sendai has agreed to relay a message to Onagawa’s mayor and is considering doing a story on Nelson’s efforts.
CBC pulled its reporters from the area due to the radiation risk from crippled nuclear plants, but they are now being allowed back.
• Fundraising for Onagawa is also going on in other parts of B.C.: a weekend walk organized by the Steveston Rotary Club attracted an estimated 7,000 people and raised $75,000. Onagawa, like Steveston, is home to many fishers and cannery workers. The Steveston Buddhist Temple will arrange to distribute the funds.
• Another meeting is planned for 7 p.m. on Monday in council chambers.
— With files from Andrea Klassen and Matthew Hoekstra, Richmond Review