Eliciting action

The Red Cross is one organization raising money for relief efforts following the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
The Red Cross is one organization raising money for relief efforts following the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
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It’s estimated that the Japanese earthquake will cost the country between $115 and $118 billion US to repair infrastructure. This could take up to five years.
It’s estimated that the Japanese earthquake will cost the country between $115 and $118 billion US to repair infrastructure. This could take up to five years.
Photo: 

While it may have happened over 10,000 km away, Queen’s students are doing their part to help with the recent earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit Sendai, Japan.

The earthquake, which was the largest Japan had experienced in the past two centuries, has caused a death toll of over 3,000, with 15,000 people unaccounted for.

President of Japanese Relations at Queen’s (JRQ) Hikaru Osugi said her group is trying to raise funds and awareness about the humanitarian needs in Japan. The group will be at the Queen’s Centre until next Friday collecting donations and speaking with students about the disaster situation. All donations collected will be given to the Canadian Red Cross.

“My family … [is] in Tokyo, but they’re affected by it for sure,” Osugi, ArtSci ’12, said, adding that the families and friends of other JRQ members directly experienced the natural disaster.

“One of the [members of JRQ is] from … Sendai. He couldn’t get in touch with [his family and friends] for a few days and it was really scary,” she said.

JRQ has experienced tremendous support and empathy from Queen’s students as well as Kingstonians, Osugi said.

“From what I know from the people who came [to the Queen’s Centre] they care a lot [about the situation in Japan and] they ask us if our family and friends are okay,” she said. “Yesterday we were right by the entrance of the [Athletics and Recreation Centre]. A lot of people from Kingston, not students, [asked about our] families. It was nice to see that.”

Despite the positive support JRQ has experienced, Osugi said they’ve been unable to elicit responses from the student government, though she said she recognizes that it’s a busy time of year.

“We don’t know what Queen’s is doing [in response to the Japan crisis]. I emailed the AMS and ASUS and they didn’t respond to me so I don’t know,” she said.

On March 16, Principal Woolf posted a message on the Queen’s News Centre website that said the University’s flags would be lowered out of respect to those who were effected by the earthquake.

“It is difficult for us to fully grasp the scope of this tragedy, its effect on families, including many in Canada, and the ongoing rescue efforts and struggles of those who must rebuild their lives,” Woolf wrote, adding that the University has been in contact with members of the Queen’s community that are in Japan currently, and all are safe.

Marc Epprecht, acting head and professor of the global development studies, said that although foreign humanitarian relief efforts are well-intentioned and often necessary for natural disasters, people should exercise caution and research the issue and the organization to which they plan on donating.

The natural disaster will cost Japan an estimated $115 to $118 billion dollars US, according to the Globe and Mail, and the London-based think tank Chatham House estimates that it will take Japan four to five years to rebuild their infrastructure.

“You want to be aware there are fly by night scam artists out there and maybe some of the money will end up helping people but some of it will get skimmed off,” Epprecht said. “The other thing to be aware of is obviously, in a crisis situation [like] Japan, you can’t have well-meaning people just rushing in saying ‘I want to help I want to help’ because you become part of the problem too, you’re imposing your needs onto this country that’s already stressed.”

However, Epprecht said a little research goes a long way ensuring donations are used effectively in precarious crisis situations. Well-reputed, long-standing organizations such as the Red Cross have a track record for effective humanitarian interventions, especially in a highly organized state such as Japan, Epprecht said.

“It’s a wonderful thing that people have the instinct to give, but they should be alert there are potential problems [when] you want to help,” Epprecht said. “Shop around, learn about the organization you’re contributing to and just make sure that organization is actually working in partnership with the government of Japan … and not be at odds with it.”

To donate to the relief efforts in Japan through the Canadian Red Cross, visit the JRQ booth at the Queen’s Centre until March 25.

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