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Springfield Community Reaches Out To Japanese Disaster Victims

Disaster Relief

One of the most destructive natural disasters in Japanese history has taken an extreme toll on the lives of those affected. Although the situation looks dire on the ground in Japan, many here in the Ozarks are doing what they can to aid in relief efforts. KSMU’s Mike Donnelly reports

On Friday, an 8.9 magnitude earthquake struck the Pacific Rim country, resulting in a series of tsunami waves that wreaked havoc along major population centers.

Some residents in Springfield, although far away from the destruction, still felt the effects from back home. Springfield resident Naoko Potts is a clerk for the Missouri Department of Conservation. She said the recent events in her native land take on a very personal meaning for her.

“Because it’s my home country, I’m Japanese and that’s where I’m from, [the fact that] my uncle cannot find his relatives, it’s just kind of heart-breaking to me. It’s a very personal occurrence to me,” Potts said.

Local organizations are already starting to form plans and relief efforts. Jeff Nene, a spokesman of Convoy of Hope in Springfield, says that his organization has sent a team to the Philippines, where they are waiting until they can move onto Japan. There they will establish communication and provide relief.

“We’re making plans right now to, over the next day, day and a half we hope, get them into Japan, get them to meet up with some folks in-country, and then start laying out that plan for where do we send food and water, how do we get it in there, where does it go, how do we get it distributed from that point, that sort of thing,” Nene said.

Cindy Job, Coordinator of Springfield’s Sister Cities Association, says that having a direct connection with Japan through its sister city of Isesaki will allow locals to provide assistance as well.

“For those who are moved by what has happened in Japan and want to contribute, one of the ways they can do so is through Sister Cities. Simply by donating money to us, we earmark it, and we will forward the funds on with the guidance of our friends in Isesaki where they think it can be best used,” Job said.

Those who moved to Springfield from Japan are grateful to see the community come together for this cause. Steve Oshita, head chef and owner of Nakato Sushi & Japanese Steakhouse, says that he is amazed at the help that Springfield residents have given to Japan so far.“Where there is [a] disaster like that, I think [that] everybody needs to help. This is the town, this is the community [where] people like to help”

In addition to the massive earthquake and deadly tsunami, Japan is also dealing with a crisis of its nuclear power plants.

For KSMU news, I’m Mike Donnelly