World pitches in to offer support

by Masami Ito

Messages of support and donations have been flooding in from all over the world to give the grieving people of Japan hope and courage and remind them they are not alone.

Not only have 134 governments and 39 international organizations offered assistance in dealing with the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, but ordinary people of all ages around the globe have been visiting local Red Cross groups and Japanese embassies to make donations and express their sympathy, according to a list compiled by the Foreign Ministry.

As of Tuesday, Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto said the total amount of donations made to embassies had exceeded ¥1 billion, and that it might eventually reach ¥10 billion. And this doesn’t include the tens of millions of yen that Japan has already received officially from governments or through the Red Cross organizations.

Besides money, soccer balls from Pakistani children with the genetic blood disorder thalassemia, as well as “senbazuru” origami cranes from various countries, including Canada, Holland, Slovakia and the United Arab Emirates, have been delivered. Charity concerts, marathons and auctions are being held all over, including in the U.S., Britain, Austria and Russia.

In a poor district in Brazil, students gathered what coins they had in a can and delivered the money to the Japanese Embassy.

“Brazil’s friend, Japan, is suffering. This (money) is not much, but we are hoping that it will be useful in some way for the disaster victims,” the children said at the embassy, according to the Foreign Ministry’s list.

Even in Egypt and Tunisia, where massive demonstrations recently toppled decades-long dictatorships, Japanese embassies have received flowers and messages.

The list goes on.

The ministry decided to compile the tally to show the Japanese people how much the world cares.

“Support for disaster victims and expressions of solidarity have been spreading all over the world from the government level to the general public over this recent earthquake,” said Jun Saito, director of the press division at the Foreign Ministry.

“But these various warm activities of support have not necessarily been known to the Japanese public, and therefore we collected the information from the embassies all over the world and compiled this document.”

L.A.’s long-term aid

LOS ANGELES (Kyodo) Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called for long-term efforts to aid Japan after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami at a meeting Tuesday to discuss organizing support activities in Southern California, which has large Japanese-American communities.

“Japanese-Americans were part of the very beginnings of this city; they have been here more than 100 years. We have the largest Japanese-American and Japanese population in the U.S.,” Villaraigosa said, suggesting participants meet regularly to coordinate specific long-term aid measures.

Among the participants were Consul General of Japan Junichi Ihara and leaders of more than 30 local organizations with close ties to Japan, including philanthropic foundations, Japanese-American community groups, Japanese prefectural organizations and universities.

The participants agreed on the need for long-term coordination and planning, while introducing immediate steps they have taken or are taking to raise funds for Japan.

A city council member proposed a large fundraising event to be held at the Los Angeles Coliseum, which has twice hosted the Olympic Games. Villaraigosa said he will introduce the proposed event if it receives the support of other organizations.