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Pasta dinner assists Japan relief

By Lance San Souci
On April 15, 2011

  • Approximately 100 University of Rhode Island students, staff and community members went to the Rainbow Diversity House yesterday to support their Japanese earthquake relief effort. Teresa Kelly

Sometimes the best things come with a side of spaghetti.  In the midst of the March 11 Japan disaster, the University of Rhode Island community came together for a "Spaghetti dinner for Japan Relief" fundraiser. 

Held at the Rainbow Diversity House last night, the fundraiser was designed to benefit relief efforts and promote awareness of the disasters in Japan.  The proceeds raised from the event, an average of $3 from each person attending, will directly benefit AmeriCares' efforts to assist the earthquake-ridden country.

Tripp Hutchinson, Program Coordinator of the Rainbow Diversity House, said the nearly $700 raised by the roughly 100 attendants will allow AmeriCares to deliver medical and relief supplies to those affected by the tsunami.

AmeriCares, a nonprofit disaster relief and humanitarian aid organization, provides immediate response to emergency medical needs for people around the world. 

"We wanted to increase awareness of the issue," Hutchinson said of why the Diversity House, in collaboration with the Office of International Education, hosted the fundraiser.  "I wanted to keep it simple and make it fun…it's the simplicity that appeals to American college students."

Thus, after reading a column published in the March 29 issue of the Cigar expressing the need to help Japan during its crisis, Hutchinson felt inspired to assist the country.  He was connected with National Student Exchange Assistant Coordinator Andrea Russell thereafter, and ultimately decided to have a spaghetti dinner for Japan, complete with live music and raffles.

"We're glad people took it seriously and talked about it," Hutchinson said.  "When something affects members of the community, it [also] affects the people here at URI."

In fact, Hutchinson said some URI members were directly affected by the tsunami.  Among them is international exchange student Kiyo Maeda, originally from the southern Japanese city of Fukuoka.

"A number of us noticed how upset he looked when the earthquake and tsunami happened," Hutchinson said of Maeda's reaction to the crisis.  "We could tell he was worried about the people in the country and [wondered] if there was something we could do."

Maeda, who will be leaving URI in May, said he was "shocked and worried" about his family back in Japan.  Though he was able to contact his family immediately after the disaster, he remained worried about his friends who resided closer to the earthquake's epicenter.  His worries were only furthered by the news reported in the media.

"I saw videos and Japan didn't look like from how I know it," Maeda said of tsunami-related media posted on the Internet.  "[But], when I found out my friends were OK, I felt a lot better."

Though Maeda admits he is still saddened by the destruction of his home country, he knows he needs to focus on how to help those still affected by the disaster.  He said the best ways to help out are through fundraisers that benefit the efforts of AmeriCares or the American Red Cross.

Another way, he said, is through increasing awareness of the disaster through events like the one held last night.

"The dinner [was] a great way to show that the URI community at large is doing something," Russell said.  "We really pulled together a lot of people from different departments to pull this fundraiser together."

Hutchinson and Maeda echoed Russell's statement, saying that they were happy with the way URI students banded together to help Japan.

"I have made friends here to cope with [the disaster]," said Maeda. "I want to see my friends in Japan [too]…It's good."

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