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Northwest Charities Send Relief Aid To Japan

Hansi Lo Wang

Katherine Boury is a spokeswoman for the Red Cross in Seattle. She says the days immediately after a disaster like Japan's earthquake and tsunami are always a difficult time for relief organizations.

Boury: "Because you're waiting. And you know, people want to know exactly what's needed and how they can help immediately."

KUOW's Hansi Lo Wang checked in with some Northwest–based charities to find out how they are responding to the crisis across the Pacific.


The day news first broke about the Japan's disaster, leaders of local Japanese–American groups met in Seattle's International District. They decided to coordinate their relief efforts through a website —

Benjamin Erickson: "It was mentioned by some of our members that, 'You know, all I have is a mailing list of people and a community that just wants to help, and they just need to have one place that they can go.'"

That's Benjamin Erickson of the Hyogo Business and Cultural Center. He's part of the new SeattleJapanRelief coalition. So far, aid organizations are raising money to provide the basics — food, shelter and water. World Vision is a Christian charity based in Federal Way. Spokeswoman Rachel Wolff says they also hope to create safe play areas for the Japanese children.

Wolff: "We know when children survive disasters — especially one this horrific — their needs are going to go beyond just the physical. So we want to establish these places where children can come and enjoy supervised play. And it also enables them to have a semblance of a routine again, a normal life, after seeing literally their world turn upside down."

Medical Teams International is a Christian nonprofit based in Portland. Linda Ranz says her group is coordinating with Christian groups in Japan to distribute basic necessities.

Ranz: "And then hopefully down the road what we'll do, at their request, is send humanitarian aid health supplies and medical doctors from the US."

Beyond raising money, Seattle groups are organizing events to help bring the community together. This past January, local Japanese community members gathered at the Seattle Center to commemorate the 16th anniversary of Japan's last big earthquake in 1995. This Saturday, the Kobe Bell will ring again in memory of those lost in last week's earthquake and tsunami.

Erickson: "I think there's a lot of people right now who are hurting, and want to have something that they feel is a symbol of, you know, of their support."

Benjamin Erickson of says there's something about the tolling of a bell that brings him peace.

Erickson: "And I think right now, I need to try to find a little bit of peace to help me move forward and continue to work as hard as I can. Because that's all I want to do — is just keep working."

For KUOW News, I'm Hansi Lo Wang.

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