Members of the Georgetown community have rapidly mobilized in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan last Saturday, raising over $2,000 for relief efforts and participating in events ranging from prayer services to academic panels.

Georgetown University’s Japan Network, the student group leading relief efforts thus far, began planning efforts at an emergency meeting Sunday after members had returned from spring break. The organization has been tabling in Red Square this week in order to solicit donations and plans to continue doing so next week.

J-NET Secretary Shannon Munayyer (COL ’11) said she was impressed by the $2,000 received so far from students and faculty.

“They just surprise us sometimes,” she said.

J-NET is also planning a letters and prayers campaign, in which they will collect contributions written in English and Japanese. They hope to compile these works into an online blog to provide comfort to the disaster victims.

The group is also pairing up with the Japanese-American Student Union of D.C., a coalition of Japanese-American students from six universities in the area. JASU will be selling “Hope for Japan” wristbands, sending heart-shaped cards to the Red Cross and creating videos of encouragement in Japanese.

“The most important thing is for the people in Japan to know that people across the world … really care for them. … I want this event and for our efforts to help,” said Kazu Koyama, the president of JASU and a student at The George Washington University.

Other groups on campus have also rallied in support of the victims. The Corp has decided to donate all tips and proceeds from the Drink of the Month at all locations to the Japan Relief Project. Hoya Innovation, an on-campus group comprised of students, faculty and alumni that hopes to address the needs of the Georgetown community with creative ideas, will be launching a 1,000 Paper Crane project next Friday. One proposal on the table is that the cranes be sent to the Japanese embassy in Washington, D.C., in order to emphasize the university’s connection to the local community.

“It’s showing how much we are with our community and how they are a part of our community,” project coordinator Jamil Poonja (COL ’12) said.

The administration has also responded to the crisis by sponsoring various events around campus. The Office of Campus Ministry held a service Tuesday featuring prayers in the Shinto, Buddhist and Christian faiths to show respect for and solidarity with the victims of the natural disasters. About 100 students, including Georgetown University Student Association President Mike Meaney (SFS ’12), were in attendance alongside Provost University James O’Donnell and Associate Vice President Jeanne Lord.

Prayers were conducted in both English and Japanese. Fr. Kevin O’Brien, S.J., executive director of Campus Ministry, opened the service on a somber note.

“This is a time of great sorrow and suffering and uncertainty,” he said.

University President John J. DeGioia then addressed the crowd, expressing sympathy for those affected by the disasters and emphasized the idea of solidarity and love within Georgetown.

The university also worked with J-NET, as well as the Georgetown International Relations Club to sponsor an academic panel on the natural disasters in Japan. “A Town Hall on Japan: The Earthquake and Its Aftermath” was held Thursday in McShain Lounge, sponsored by the Mortara Center for International Studies and the Asian Studies National Resource Center.

The panelists all stressed Japan’s demonstrated resilience and the potential dangers to the Japanese economy, environment and people in an academic and humanitarian manner.

“We are here as a community in compassion but also as a community of scholars,” said Michael Green, associate professor of international affairs and Japan chair of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The panelists also emphasized the necessity of continuing to pay attention to the nation.

“It is important for us to think about the psychological, emotional and spiritual needs of those affected,” said panelist Fr. Matthew Carnes, S.J., assistant professor of government.

Other academic programs, including the East Asian Languages and Cultures department, have also been instrumental in responding to the crisis in Japan. The program is planning to organize department and alumni donations in the coming weeks, according to department Chair Jordan Sand.

Georgetown’s Center for Social Justice, Research, Teaching and Service will be responsible for collecting the money raised by on-campus organizations and determining which relief fund to donate to. The CSJ is also serving as the bridge between student groups, faculty and alumni who want to contribute to relief efforts through the Jesuit University Humanitarian Action Network. JUHAN is supervised by the CSJ, the School of Foreign Service and the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship. The organization serves as an adviser for relief efforts events, rather than a creator and planner of them.

The CSJ has been contacted by a variety of student groups, including the Hindu Student Association and individual alumni who are interested in participating in on-campus efforts.

“They, just like everyone else, are trying to figure out how they can help,” said Suzanne Tarlov, associate director of CSJ.

The CSJ is also providing assistance to Georgetown students who live or have studied in Japan. The center does not plan to put on any independent events but has suggested a possible teleconference with Japanese alumni.

The greater Georgetown community has also turned out to support the victims of the disaster. Local bakery Georgetown Cupcake is donating 100 percent of its online and in-store sales of their Red Velvet cupcakes Tuesday to the American Red Cross’ Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami fund. The store has raised more than $7,000, according to Kim Reynolds, senior account executive of TLCommunications.

JASU will also be holding a fundraiser this Sunday at Café Asia in Rosslyn, Va., from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. The event will feature a performance by local traditional Japanese group Nen Daiko, and all proceeds from sales at the restaurant during the event will be donated to JASU’s Japan Relief Project.

The 9.0 magnitude earthquake first shook the Tohuku region of the Pacific Ocean after originating off the coast of Japan early Friday morning. The aftershocks of the earthquake were followed by a tsunami, which ravaged the Pacific coastline of Japan’s northern islands. Damage to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility has caused failures in the plant’s cooling systems, leading to the release of radiation that has led Japan to call for the evacuation of citizens living within 12.4 miles of the site. Georgetown students in Japan are leaving the country following a recommendation by the Office of International Programs.


— Hoya Staff Writers Caitlin Mac Neal and Sarah Kaplan contributed to this report.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *