Categorized | Featured, News, Tsunami

Tsunami 2011: Rotary Clubs, residents show ‘Aloha for Japan’

Rie Mori, a Rotary exchange student from Tokyo, helps out at Walmart. (Photo special to Hawaii 24/7)


It was Monday, March 14 2011. West Hawaii was recovering from the adrenalin rush of the sirens and the tsunami a few days before. The damage to West Hawaii had been substantial. At the same time, there was a growing awareness of the enormity of the humanitarian crisis in Northern Japan.

A few Rotarians from the Rotary Clubs of Kona, Kona Mauka and Kona Sunrise realized that they wanted and needed to do something, and as quickly as possible.

The Rotary Clubs of Kona have members of Japanese descent, members who studied as exchange students in Japan, and other members with Japanese spouses. There are also Kona Rotarians originally from Japan.

Kona Rotary Clubs have sister clubs in Japan as well; the Rotary Club of Kobe West, the site of the previous devastating earthquake, and the Rotary Club of Misuzawa, just a few miles from Sendai, the center of the devastation.

The Rotarians involved decided to fund ShelterBoxes, self-contained temporary shelters that include blankets, basic cooking equipment, utensils and tools. The kits can be quickly customized to adapt to conditions such as the cold weather in Japan. Units were ready to ship and ShelterBox personnel were already on the ground in Japan.

Local government authorities in Japan’s Iwate Prefecture had requested 500 ShelterBoxes immediately to provide emergency shelter and lifesaving supplies for families who lost their homes the tsunami.

The Rotary Clubs began raising money in their clubs for the project.

Simultaneously, Ann Goody, of the Rotary Club of Kona Sunrise, contacted Wal-Mart and obtained their support for a Kona Rotary sponsored community fund raising project.

The Rotary Interact Club of Kealakehe High School also joined the fund raising effort, scheduled for three days, beginning March 18, in front of the Kona Wal-Mart store. With a little advance publicity the team of Rotarians and students were ready to collect funds.

With a table, collection jars for donations, a lot of smiles and a couple of display boards that showed a ShelterBox open with its’ contents Rotary and student volunteers began to share this idea with the community.

Each day the volunteers were touched and amazed by the generosity of the people. Many, who are not financially well off themselves, gave substantial donations.

The daily totals allowed the Rotarians to purchase 48 of the $1,000 ShelterBoxes within 72 hours. For a small community, such as West Hawaii, to raise $48,000 in three days is not only very generous but humbling for all who participated.

As of Monday morning, that total now is well in excess of $64,000.

“ShelterBoxes are being delivered to citizens in the Northern Prefectures, taking shelter amidst the rubble of their homes. Families huddled next to overturned vehicles, will have their first warm night’s sleep since the disaster thanks to Kona’s outpouring of generosity and support,” Goody said.

A Rotary exchange student from Tokyo was visiting her former classmates at Kealakehe High School and joined them in the volunteer effort in front of Wal-Mart.

She cried as she witnessed the outpouring of compassion for the people of Japan.

“I can find no words to explain how grateful we are for what you have done for us,” Masayasu Furuya, chairman of the Rotary Club in Tokyo said in an email. “‘Kona Aloha for Japan’, a fundraising project undertaken by all three Kona Rotary Clubs, owes an endless debt of gratitude to the people of West Hawaii.”

The Kona Rotary Clubs still are encouraging donations to ShelterBox, even though the official collection period has ended.

Checks made out to either Rotary club of Kona Sunrise or Shelter Box USA) and sent 75-809 Keaolani Dr, Kailua-Kona HI 96740. Or visit the ShelterBox website to make a credit card donation.

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Ann Goody is joined by a friend and students from the Kealakehe High School Interact Club. (Photo special to Hawaii 24/7)

Students from Kealakehe High School Interact Club. (Photo special to Hawaii 24/7)

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