On Friday, March 8, Bellevue College hosted a dinner for the Kizuna Project which was set up by the Laurasian Institution together with the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership and sponsored by the International Student Programs at BC. The project was built to promote awareness about the current situation in Japan and recovery efforts after the earthquake and tsunami that occurred on March 11, 2011. The event that took place at the BC Cafeteria was attended by about 250 Japanese students, teachers and volunteers.
The event was introduced by International Student Programs Director Kazumi Hada. After the dinner, students were given a tour around BC campus for approximately an hour. A total of 150 high school students who came from seven different schools in Japan were welcomed to the college. Seventeen-year- old Ohtsuchi High School student Hikaru Miura was one of the attendees. Her house in Kamaishi, Iwate, Japan was about three miles away from the sea. When the tsunami struck, her house was completely destroyed by the lunge current. Currently, Miura is living in a temporary housing supported by the government with her parents.
Ohtsuchi High School English instructor, Toru Yamakage who also came to the event said that their school opened up 24 spots for students to participate in this project but only 19 applied for the event. According to Yamakage, approximately 80% of the town where the Ohtsuchi High School students live were destroyed by the tsunami.
Misawa High School student Tsukuta Janus said that he came to the U.S. to share his story and thank people in the U.S. for their help and support during the recovery period after the tsunami.
According to Janus, due to the closeness of his hometown, Misawa, to the seawater, the Misawa seaport was destroyed. His high school, however, was located on a higher ground so the tsunami stream did not affect it.
Linda Annable, international student life coordinator at BC said that she was supportive of the project seeing how positive the Japanese reacted to the disaster. “I’m interested in learning the ways Japan rebuilding the areas that are devastated by the earthquake and tsunami … I like the way they take the tragedy into something positive through Kizuna,” said Annable.
Student volunteer Kazuki Yonebayashi is one of BC international students who volunteered last night. Yonebayashi comes from Saitama, Japan. “I really appreciate student volunteers who came from all around the world, supporting this event and made this event a success,” said Yonebayashi.
Ashley Greenridge, a Kizuna Project guide said that the Japanese students come to the United States for a little over two weeks. According to her, one of the objectives of the project is to strengthen the bond between the U.S. and Japan. The Kizuna Project has been going on from June 2012 and will end in March 2013.
During this period, more than a thousand Japanese students will be touring around the U.S. This is Greenridge’s first time to become a guide for the Kizuna Project, the next tour will be going on from March 17 and students will arrive in Washington D.C.