ANCHORAGE, Alaska—The Japanese Society of Alaska began its annual meeting in the cafeteria of Northwood Elementary School Sunday night with a moment of silence for earthquake and tsunami victims in Japan.
It wasn’t how the group’s 100 members had planned to start the meeting, which had been postponed from January; normally it’s a celebration of Japanese culture, not a somber event. Even so, many were glad to come together at the Spenard school, home to the Asian Culture Center, after a week of concern for family and friends in Japan.
Another brother in Japan was able to make contact with the missing brother’s family, so Sarafin’s fears have been eased for her own family -- but her worries continue for the rest of her country.
Many of those at the gathering had experienced similar frustrations in the last week. The Japanese consul for Alaska, Hideo Fujito, told the group that this is the largest crisis Japan has experienced since World War II.
The Japanese Society of Alaska has been working with other community groups to establish a Japan Relief Fund at Wells Fargo Bank, and a website has been set up at www.jprf.org. The task force that set up thes fund is scheduled to meet on Wednesday to plan and coordinate future fundraisers.
“I think any help we can provide, they’ll appreciate that,” said Yoshi Ogawa, the Japanese Society of Alaska’s president.
Ogawa says as an Alaskan and as someone who is of Japanese descent, he finds himself in a unique position to help. He adds that it’s important to him and other members of the society that assistance come from Alaska.
“ I think we have very strong ties, Alaska and Japan, for many years,” Ogawa said.
Also announced at the meeting was a Wednesday deadline to sign a condolences book at the Japanese consulate office in Anchorage, located on the 13th floor of the Frontier Building on C Street. It’s important for Alaskans like Sarafin to offer more than just condolences, however.
“It's really heart-breaking to see all these videos and newspaper articles and pictures and see devastation -- it's just heart breaking,” Sarafin said.
She hopes some of the money raised in Alaska will go to help elders, whom she fears may have lost the family members who would normally look after them.
“I’m really, really worried about the elders,” Sarafin said.
Contact Rhonda McBride at firstname.lastname@example.org