International Mentors group raises money for Japanese disaster victims

A scene of destruction left by tsunami in Kamaishi on March 13, 2011. Photo courtesy of MCT.

Christine Morgan

The tsunami and earthquakes that crashed into Japan’s eastern coast inspired one student organization to act on behalf of their “brothers and sisters.”

“We have students in our organization who are affected by it because that’s their home,” Carrie Circosta, co-adviser for the Kent State International Mentors, said. “We are a family; if something happened to your brother or sister you would want to do something about it.”

Eron Memaj, founder of the organization, said the group initially responded with a prayer board and donation box in the Student Center shortly after the tsunami hit. He said the overwhelming support from students and faculty was amazing.

“I’ve been very impressed that there are so many good people out there and how much they’ve donated,” Memaj said. “I’ve seen people just pulling out their wallets, and the next thing we knew we were able to raise more than $1,800 so far.”

The Kent State International Mentors is a program that matches an international student with an American student to inspire the development of new friendships and understanding of different cultures.

On March 10, a magnitude-8.9 offshore earthquake, a 23-foot tsunami, and more than 50 aftershocks, many of them of greater than magnitude 6.0, devastated Japan, killing thousands of people and tourists.

Shunya Yagi, senior zoology major from Aichi, Japan, said he helped in the organization’s initial response. He said it feels great to have people supporting his country.

“I was so glad that many people are working for us,” Yagi said. “I was really surprised that many people are interested in Japan and Japanese news. It’s really uplifting for me. I didn’t expect the amount of money collected, so it’s really amazing.”

Memaj said the organization will continue to raise money for Japan by selling wristbands throughout this week for $1 each in the Student Center. All money collected will be donated to the Red Cross.

Memaj said other people outside the Japanese community requested the support of the Kent State community.

“In this effort, it wasn’t just the Japanese students who were asking for help,” Memaj said. “It was students from all sides of the world. It was an international effort.”

Memaj said the organization’s efforts will continue until Japan can rebuild itself.

“I think our efforts are going to continue for months and a couple years as well,” Memaj said. “I’d really like to help this country to rebuild, but it’s going to take time. I don’t think we should stop yet, I think there is still more to be done.”

Contact Christine Morgan at [email protected].