Music and fundraisers for Japan

When news hit the United States about the 9.0 magnitudeearthquake and ensuing tsunami that devastated northern Japan lastmonth, Keiko Asakawa-Golden was safe at home in Bay Ridge with herfamily.

But the piano instructor and mother of two’s parents live east ofTokyo and after finally confirming that they were safe, sheimmediately started brainstorming ways to help them deal with thelack of fresh drinking water, electricity and train services.

First, she held a stoop sale outside her house in Bay Ridge, wherefellow mothers from her informal Bay Ridge Japanese Mom Groupteamed up to sell baked goods and knick-knacks in order to raisefunds for their family members and others back in Japan. Theyraised over $300.

Then, with help from fellow musician Jessica Corbin, who co-directsthe Art on the Corner series at Good Shepherd Lutheran, she planneda benefit concert for last weekend that featured several localperformers.

Music For Japan: A Benefit Concert for Earthquake and TsunamiRelief Effort raised over $3,544 that has been donated to theJapan Society’s Japan Earthquake Relief Fund, which goes directlyto immediate relief as well as the long-term recovery process. Itwas one of several fundraising efforts throughout southwestBrooklyn for Japan relief.

Another took place at Xaverian High School, which, for the pastdecade, has had a music/cultural exchange program with students inJapan, sending students and teachers to Aichi Prefecture, near thecity of Nagoya, for visits and performances. To help their friends,the music department held a benefit concert on March 31, and areholding bake sales and an ongoing clothing drive to raise funds forthe Xaverian Japanese Relief Fund.

Another bake sale was held at P.S. 748 in Bath Beach, where, onMarch 11 Principal Ursula Annio decided to give thepre-kindergarten and first graders a chance to work together tohelp others. It was just the right thing to do, she said. But itwas the reaction of one parent that showed her how what’s right isalso what has the most impact.

I was very touched [when] my daughter came home and said theprincipal had made an announcement that there would be a bake salein one week, said Mayumi Klapper, a Japanese American woman whosesix-year-old daughter is in first grade at P.S. 748. I wanted tohelp. I also started thinking about doing something to thank thechildren and school in my way. So I thought origami would besomething I can do that is traditional Japanese.

As thanks for their hard work and $975 raised, Klapper and a friendmade around 150 origami cranes – one for each child and teacher inthe small school. The origami crane is a symbol of peace. Also, wedo it when somebody’s very sick, to make the person feel better.It’s a big symbol for us, a way to pray. In this case, I used thecranes just to say thank you from us.

They were such a hit that the stay-at-home mom of two has beeninvited to come teach the students in pre-kindergarten throughfirst grade how to make their own origami cranes. It is difficultfor little hands to do, she said, but the children are soenthusiastic and have managed to make a few themselves.

I think everybody had a great time and the teacher enjoyed it,said Klapper. It’s good for the children – something they willlearn and have fun at the same time.

The 9.0 magnitude earthquake hit on March 11 off the coast ofnorthern Japan, 231 miles from its capital city of Tokyo, andtriggered a tsunami that brought waves as high as 33 feet washingaway entire villages, sparking fires and, perhaps most dangerously,destabilizing several nuclear power plants which workers are stillstruggling to manage.

Over 10,000 are reported dead, with countless more still missing.Hundreds of thousands of people are living in shelters.

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