Japanese Iowans lend support to each other following disasters - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Japanese Iowans lend support to each other following disasters

WATERLOO (KWWL)-- An earthquake, tsunami and the threat of a full nuclear meltdown are all contributing to the massive devastation in Japan.  And now, there are health scares.  People are being told to stay clear of water in some villages, and radiation-tainted vegetables have been found on farms. 

It's been more than a week after the 9.0 quake and tsunami hit, and the death toll has now climbed to 8,400 people.  13,000 more are still missing, and that number is expected to keep rising.

But many remain hopeful, waiting on a miracle, especially after an 80-year-old woman and her 16-year-old grandson were found alive this weekend, nine days after the tsunami.  Rescue teams found the teenager calling for help on the roof of a collapsed house.  The boy's grandma was found inside.  Both were airlifted to a hospital for treatment.

In the wake of the disasters, Japanese natives right here in the Cedar Valley are coming together to lend support to one another.  The Cedar Valley Japan Club formed a few years ago.  But never have the members needed support from one another like they do now. 

Like many Japanese Americans, Yayoi Teramoto Moreland had a hard time reaching family and friends back home following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

"My husband's friend called me at like 5:30 in the morning and said to go look at the TV.  And then, right after, I tried to Skype my family and the phones were not working," Moreland said.

Slowly, those communication abilities have been restored, and Moreland learned her relatives were okay.  Others were not so lucky.  Moreland's friend, Tomie Sasaki Hesselink's family knows the devastation first hand.

"My parents lost everything.  They are just the kind of people that are working, working, working, working, yes.  They lost houses.  They lost their shop," Hesselink said.

And the stories and images of all the devastation has been emotionally trying for many.  So Yayoi Moreland brought together the Cedar Valley Japan Club for a potluck dinner Sunday, to start a dialogue between Japanese native Iowans about what can be done to help their homeland.

"I think this is really bad enough that it will take years and years to recover.  So it's not only just immediate needs. I think as a community, we want to support like three years, five years, a stretch of time period," Moreland said.

So sharing Sunday's meal together is just the beginning of how this Japanese community will support each other, and the country they call home, for what will likely be a long path toward complete recovery.

The Cedar Valley Japan Club is working to organize some kind of fundraiser to support the disaster relief efforts.  In the meantime, the club is encouraging folks to make donations to the Japanese Consulate in Chicago.

Checks can me made to:  Consulate General of Japan (write "disaster relief" in the memo line), 737 North Michigan Ave. Suite 1100 Chicago IL 60611

To learn more about the Cedar Valley Japan Club, email cvjapanclub@googlegroups.com or click here.       

KWWL Reporter:  Kera Mashek

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