Canada cultural group to assist disaster-zone youths

Kyodo

The Japanese Canadian Cultural Center said Saturday it will use the 1.5 million Canadian dollars (¥137 million) in its Japan Earthquake Relief Fund to assist the education of young people in the Tohoku region affected by the 2011 disasters.

“The future of the region depends highly on the ability of the children there to continue their education so they can revitalize” Tohoku, board director Christine Nakamura said, noting the local “aging population” further emphasizes the importance of youth.

The Toronto-based organization will focus on three ways to “instill a feeling of hope” in youths from the hardest-hit prefectures of Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima, Nakamura said.

Under the first pillar, the JCCC’s foundation has set up four-year scholarships for 15 students to receive CA$5,000 (¥455,000) annually while attending four universities in Tohoku in the 2013 school year. Similar amounts will be provided to nine students from the following school year.

“The fund is still open, so if we receive further contributions, we will try to keep (the program) going as long as possible,” Nakamura said.

Representatives of the JCCC Foundation met with officials from the four institutions — Iwate Prefectural University, Tohoku University, Fukushima Medical University and East Japan International University — in February to create the scholarships.

Meanwhile, the center’s earthquake relief fund for Tohoku will be also used to support an existing program at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo called “Hope for Youth,” which has already helped more than 100 students travel to Canada to study language and culture.

“It is a way to get some of the children out of (Tohoku) and to develop a link with them,” Nakamura said, adding that many organizations have financially supported the program, including the students’ airfares that were paid for by Japanese fashion company Samantha Thavasa.

The third strategy of the center, founded 49 years ago, involves a CA$100,000 (¥9.1 million) donation to three prefectural government funds — established by Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima — to address the educational needs of children affected by the natural and nuclear disasters. These funds are open to students of any age who require financial aid because of hardships stemming from the March 2011 catastrophe.

Around 3,000 Canadians, mostly from the Toronto area, have donated to the quake relief fund set up by the group immediately after the calamities.