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Over the past 15 years, readers of The Japan Times have donated 200 million yen through the Readers’ Refugees Aid Fund to help refugee relief programs through the U.N. and other official and private organizations.

Launched in 1982 to help save millions of starving Africans and Asian refugees, the annual fundraising appeal has mainly benefited African and Indochinese refugees. In some years, the fund has also helped disaster-stricken people overseas, including Bangladeshi flood victims and Indian earthquake victims.

The fund has a dual purpose: to raise funds and generate public awareness about the gravity of the refugee issue. This year’s drive is intended to help finance aid programs undertaken by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Africa and the former Yugoslavia, and to facilitate the integration of Indochinese refugees who resettled in Japan.

According to UNHCR, there are about 50 million refugees and internally displaced people who have been forced to flee owing to armed conflict or persecution.

In March 1997, the Japan Times Readers’ Refugees Aid Fund donated the entire amount raised in the year, 6,393,000 yen, to seven aid organizations.

UNHCR was given 3 million yen for programs in Africa, especially those in the Great Lakes and Central Africa. UNHCR has been the largest recipient of donations from the fund.

The Tokyo-based Refugee Assistance Headquarters of the Foundation for Welfare & Education of the Asian People received 843,000 yen for programs to integrate Indochinese refugees who had resettled in Japan.

The Japan International Volunteer Center, Japan’s largest nongovernmental organization long engaged in refugee assistance, was given 800,000 yen for a rural development project for returnees in Laos.

Caring for Young Refugees, based in Tokyo, used 800,000 yen from the fund to publish an illustrated book of Cambodian children’s songs.

Two groups of Vietnamese refugees were given 300,000 yen each to continue publishing Vietnamese-language newsletters for their members.

Hoi Than Huu Tuong Tro Viet Nam Tai Kanagawa, a group of 2,500 members mainly living in Kanagawa Prefecture, has published the bimonthly Vietnamese newsletter Ban Tin Than Hyuy.

Another group of Vietnamese refugees, the Vietnamese Association in Japan, published a Vietnamese-language monthly newsletter and distributed 500 copies of it to refugee families.

Caring for Indochinese Refugees, a volunteer group in Kanagawa Prefecture, used 350,000 yen from the fund to buy teaching materials and hold Japanese-language classes for Indochinese refugees here.

The current fundraising drive will end Dec. 31.

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