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Locals jump to Japan's aid

Tigard High Schoool students will donate the proceeds of their Japan Night to the effort
by: Jaime Valdez CARE PACKAGE — Carly Cais packs socks into care packages she plans to send to Japan. The local blogger is one of many people in the area donating to relief efforts after Japan’s devastating earthquake and tsunami.

As Japan reels in the aftermath of the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck last week, many in Tigard and Tualatin have taken it upon themselves to do what they can to help - everyone from high school students to bloggers.

Local blogger sends letters, socks

When she learned more about the earthquake, Tualatin resident Carly Cais donated to a charity. But her strong personal connection to the country deserved a personal gift, she said, and she found another way to give: sending socks.

As a child, Cais and her family moved to Japan. After a few years they moved back, but Cais has been visiting the country ever since. Her husband is from Japan, and his family, as well as Cais' mother, still live in Japan.

Thankfully, the many people Cais knows in Japan avoided the worst of the earthquake and resulting tsunami. Following the quake, Cais and her family watched several Japanese news channels for updates on the recovery process.

On Tuesday, Cais blinked back tears as she described seeing the faces and hearing the voices of those devastated by the earthquake.

'I can't physically go over there and help with the efforts to reunite loved ones with their families or pull bodies out of the debris,' Cais said. Sending socks and a message is her way to give a little more than just money.

'Socks for Japan' was launched online by author Jason Kelly. The program will deliver packages of clean, new socks to the victims of the quake.

It's something small, Cais said, but it's significant.

'You don't want to give stuff that people really, really don't need. But the thing that people really need most is that sort of boost, that someone's out there and cares.'

The socks and letters sent by people like Cais will be hand-delivered around the affected parts of the country.

'Japanese people really treasure letters and will hold on to them for years and years and years, especially when they come from abroad,' Cais said. 'The socks themselves are probably less important than the letters.'

Cais posted a message about Socks for Japan on her fashion blog 'Chic Steals,' and sent a message to her son's school, the International School in Portland, about the project. On Tuesday morning, she got the news that every student at her son's school would be sending a pair of socks and a care letter to Japan.

'Japan Night' next month

At Tigard High School, plans for a special night honoring Japan have been in the works for months.

The school's Japanese Honor Society has been hosting the annual 'Japan Night' for a decade, and this year will mark the 10th anniversary of the celebration.

The event is the main fundraiser for the society, but this year the proceeds will be given to local charities working to help with Japan's recovery.

The destruction in Japan was a shock to the club whose adviser serves as part of an exchange program with Japan. One of the club's students was studying in Japan when the disaster struck. The student wasn't harmed in the tragedy.

The annual event includes demonstrations of Kendo - Japanese fencing - as well as a Kimono wearing demonstration, musical performance of Japanese drums, Japanese food, origami, anime videos and demonstrations on how to make Japanese flower arrangements.

'Appreciating different cultures helps us to enhance the understanding of our own culture,' Roberts said. 'It also makes us more aware of other cultures. We learn to appreciate other cultures while, at the same time, knowing our own a bit better.'

Normally the event is small, Roberts said, raising only about $500 for local community events and to help bring instructional assistants from Japan to help teach students.

'We're not very good moneymakers,' Roberts said. 'We normally just cover the cost of our yearly expenses.'

This year the hope is to raise a bit more.

The event is free and open to the public.

Japan Night will be held at Tigard High School April 8, at 5:30 p.m.

MTI sends food, water

The nonprofit humanitarian aid group Medical Teams International is working with Japanese church partners to provide food, water and other necessities to survivors of Friday's 9.0 earthquake and tsunami.

The Tigard-based organization, which provides medical and humanitarian services to countries in need, is also working with relief efforts in Haiti which was rocked by a devastating 7.0 earthquake in 2010.

The differences between the Haitian and Japanese earthquakes are great. The Japanese earthquake was much larger than Haiti's, MTI spokesman Marlene Minor said, but the country was in a better position to deal with earthquakes.

'Because Japan is so well equipped for earthquakes it wasn't so much the quake as the tsunami that followed that provided most of the damage,' Minor said. 'Japan is incredibly equipped for quakes.'

After the Haitian earthquake MTI sent dozens of teams of medical professionals to the country to help treat the wounded. A team of doctors and nurses recently returned from treating victims in Libya, where clashes with the ruling government have turned bloody.

Minor said that no such surge of medical professionals will be heading to Japan.

'There just isn't the need for our teams,' Minor said. 'The Japanese and US have some of the best teams already on site. Our teams aren't needed at this time.'

Instead, MTI is working with area churches to distribute food and water, which has been scarce in parts of the hardest stricken areas.

The church partners are establishing five bases of operation to provide help to survivors in five hard hit Japanese regions: Fukushima, South Sendai, North Senda, Minami Sanrikucho and Morioka, Hachinohe. Local volunteers will provide supplies that Medical Teams International purchases through cash donations.

'We talked with one of the churches we are working with last night, and they really need our help,' Minor said. 'They need money for them to truck in water for people. Water is their biggest need.'

Minor said that while many people want to send anything they can to help, what the country really needs is money.

'They really need the cash to be able to get those things as close to home as they can,' Minor said. 'By the time you pay for shipping from here they could have bought 10 times as much closer to them. It just isn't a good use of resources, though there are many people who want to do that.'

Donations to MTI can be made at medicalteams.org.

Donate to 'Socks for Japan'

Where: Jason Kelly, Plaza Kei 101

Wakamatsu-cho 615-6

Sano, Tochigi 327-0846

Japan

What: Send only new socks.

Group similar socks in one package, and list package contents on the package. You can enclose a short care letter, which will be translated.

Write your e-mail address on the package.

More information: jasonkelly.com/helpjapan