By Jacqueline Beveridge and Sarah Jautz
Rye has always been known by the way its residents come together to help their neighbors. But, who knew that Rye’s neighbors would be on the other side of the world. As a reaction to the recent tragedy in Japan, the Rye community has come together to support the victims of this disaster. One Rye resident who was personally affected by the disaster, Yuko Watanabe, decided to help Japan by organizing a series of fundraisers, with the proceeds going to Japan.
Recently, we conducted an interview of Mrs. Watanabe, and she told us about her efforts to help the residents of Japan. Mrs. Watanabe’s parents live in Iwaki City, Fukushima. This city is 38 km from the nuclear reactor site. “"My parents are still there. My father owns a business with 500 employees. They are all ok, but many of their houses are ruined, and food and supplies are short. My father has been trying to help people who are not able to evacuate for many reasons. My parents said they couldn't leave those people because they are members of their community. Some people, including my parents, have been trying their best, even with that tough situation. When I was thinking about what I can do for Japan, my Rye friends encouraged me to help Japan here,” says Mrs. Watanabe.
We asked her what it’s like in Japan after the tsunami, and if people are comparing it to any other disasters, like Hurricane Katrina. She responded by saying, “I had a friend and she was driving to Tokyo. On her way she was saying how everything was deserted. It was so hard for her to see it and believe it. One day everything was gone. It was shocking. It’s too horrible to compare to anything else, honestly. To some people it seems like the movie “2012”. The world just seems over.”
(PHOTO: A wishing tree.)
To help Japan, Rye is creating many fundraisers. The elementary schools started an Origami train, and in one day, they raised 200 dollars for Japan! Rice balls are being sold every Tuesday in all the schools, with all the proceeds going to Japan. Mrs. Watanabe designed shirts for sale that say “Save Japan”, and in Japanese characters, it says “Keep going, Japan.” Those shirts are also being sold at Rye Middle School on Tuesday. Mrs. Watanabe is also collecting personal donations. If you would like to contribute, please send your donations to Mrs. Yuko Watanabe, Save Japan Fund, 165 Locust Avenue, Rye NY, 10580. However, the donations are not tax deductible. So, if you would like a write off, please send your donations to the Red Cross instead. Checks to Mrs. Watanabe should be made payable to the “Save Japan Fund.” All schools are participating in a Wishing Tree. For a suggested donation of one dollar, a person writes a wish, and then the wish is hung on the tree. Wishes can be brought in with children to school, or they can be sent to c/o Craig Dreves, Reach Out Rye, Rye Middle School, 3 Parsons Street, Rye, NY, 10580. There will also be a wish-a-thon where people try to compete to get the most wishes from families and friends. The Rye Angels, which is a high school club, are designing and selling bracelets for Japan. Those will be sold at Rye High school. So be sure to participate in at least one of these worthwhile events!
During the interview, we also asked her why she moved to Rye in the first place. She responded by saying, “"I moved to Rye eight years ago to take over our family business. I grew up in my hometown, Iwaki, which has beautiful beaches and lots of nature with very nice people. It is just like Rye. Rye is my children's hometown. I have a 7th grader and 3rd grader. We go back to Japan every summer and send my boys to Japanese school for 3 weeks to preserve Japanese culture in them. We have so many wonderful memories with family and friends there and it is hard to believe the beautiful view does not exist any more. The earthquakes with tsunami took everything they had, which we always believed we would always have.” When we questioned her about the reaction of the Japanese community in Rye, she said that “" I know only a couple people who are actually from that area. It is very hard for them, including myself, to accept this tragedy actually happened. It is also very tough to be here thinking about our family. We all are very worried about our families. Japanese people who are not related to the area still want to help and support our country since this is the national disaster for everybody. I have many wonderful American friends in Rye who offered to support and help. I love my hometown in Japan. But I also love Rye as my second hometown. It would be great if I could do something with connecting these wonderful people and send a big warm heart from Rye to people in Japan. I believe it will really encourage them."
Mrs. Watanabe also introduced us to her friend, Mio Hatanaka. Mrs. Hatanaka has a daughter that goes to Midland, and has lived in Rye since June, 2008. She was born and raised in Tokyo, but now, most of her family members and relatives live in the Tohoku Region, which was severely damaged by the earthquake and tsunami. Her aunt’s family lived in Otsuchi-Cho town in the Iwate Prefecture, and they lost their home. “It was a miracle that they could escape the tsunami, because it was attacking just behind them,” she explained. Fortunately, all her family is safe now. Her family was staying at an evacuation center for a couple of days, but now some of her family is at her Uncle’s house, in Tono City, which is nearby. Others in her family stayed behind to help out at the evacuation center. She “wants people to know how much victims in disaster areas are suffering and hurting, both physically and mentally. Many people at evacuation centers got sick from coldness without heating appliances, and people with diseases have no supply of medicine.” She also informed us that recent Japanese news reported that 7,653 people have died, and more than 11,746 people are still missing. Her daughter’s classmates wrote letters to her family members which really touched her heart. “I really appreciate everyone’s wonderful effort and kindness.”
To recap, to donate, you can:
- Buy a t-shirt for $10 at Rye Middle School
- Participate in the Wishing Tree and Wish-A-Thon. Wishes and money can either by brought in with children to Rye Middle or sent to Craig Dreves (c/o Craig Dreves, Reach Out Rye, Rye Middle School, 3 Parsons Street, Rye, NY, 10580)
- Donate to Ms. Yuko Watanabe through the “Save Japan Fund.” (Mrs. Yuko Watanabe, Save Japan Fund, 165 Locust Avenue, Rye NY, 10580.)
- Buy a bracelet from the High School Club, The Rye Angels.
- Donate to the Red Cross fund for “The Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami Fund.”
Rye is reaching out, and is showing that it is truly a global community.
Jacqueline Beveridge is currently an eighth grader at Rye Middle School. She moved to Rye in 2007 after living in England for nearly ten years. Jacqueline enjoys reading, writing, traveling with her family and hiking.