Harvard Supports Japan

Harvard students, affiliates plan fundraisers and events in wake of Japanese earthquake

After an earthquake and tsunami hit Japan on March 11, Harvard students have been fundraising and planning events, including a banquet two nights ago and a week-long schedule of events which begin today.

Since the natural disasters devastated Japan, Jessica W. Li ’14 decided to host a small banquet to raise money for the Japanese Red Cross.

“A lot of events were happening after spring break, but why not now?” Li said she asked herself at the time.

Li posted her idea on her Facebook, and in a few hours preparations were underway for the “Harvard Students for Japan: Banquet.”

Sakura Huang ’13, who volunteered for the banquet, said she thought the event was perfect for spring break since dining halls were closed.

“There’s no food on campus, so this is definitely the way to do it,” Huang said.

At the event Saturday, there were more than 60 volunteers and donations from 15 restaurants in Harvard Square and Boston’s Chinatown.

Li said that the event was well attended, despite taking place during spring break.

“We expected 200 people. There were well over 300 people in attendance,”  Li said.

Raising $3,246, Li and her team of volunteers said they considered the event a success.

Like Li, another Harvard undergraduate, Hiroko Kumaki ’11, wanted to find a way to help.

Kumaki, who is from the earthquake devastated city of Sendai, met Keisuke Ishihara, a graduate student. The two organized a team to create the Harvard for Japan movement—an umbrella movement to help coordinate the University’s response to the disaster. As of Sunday afternoon, the movement had co-signatures from more than 50 organizations.

Currently partnering with the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies and the Program on U.S.-Japan Relations at the Weatherhead Center, the Harvard for Japan movement is spearheading Harvard for Japan Week.

The week will begin with a candlelight vigil at 8 p.m. tonight on the steps of Memorial Church. The daily events, which are posted online, include an origami workshop in Quincy and Pfoho dining halls, a faculty panel discussion, a film night, and a Bach Society Orchestra Charity Concert. The week ends with a Harvard-Radcliffe Asian American Association Benefit Concert on Saturday.

All week, there will be fundraising activities in front of the Science Center, during which time students can receive “Hope for Japan 2011” bracelets in exchange for a donation.

Hiroko and her team also provided a space in the conference room of the Reischauer Institute for inter-school dialogue for the entire Harvard community.

The various Harvard Graduate Schools came to talk with Kumaki’s team about various initiatives which were taking place across campus, including an off-campus comedy show hosted by the Graduate School of Design and a sushi party sponsored by the Harvard Kennedy School.

Student organizers acknowledged that spring break has made organization difficult at times, but said they felt encouraged that the student body, Harvard administrators, and Harvard faculty seemed to be paying attention to the disaster and willing to help.  “I’m encouraged that my resident dean, my House Master, and my friends all have contacted me showing their support,” Kumaki said. “Dean [of the Colllege Evelynn M.] Hammonds emailed me directly. For the college, she’s been great, literally great.”

Huang said she was shocked by the enthusiasm and energy that brought students together.

“I’m inspired by what happened,” Huang said.

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