WASHINGTON, Pa. (Nov. 8, 2011)—The Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) community has donated more than $10,000 to a group of a dozen people left with little in the aftermath of the deadly earthquake and tsunami that ravaged Japan earlier this year.
Professor of Sociology Edward Greb, Ph.D., who has led W&J student trips to Japan for more than 20 years, organized the effort that raised donations from staff, faculty, students and campus organizations. Greb worked directly with the Samukawa International Exchange Association (SIEA) to ensure the money went directly to the needy—in this case, a group of refugees of the nuclear plant emergency that resulted from the earthquake.
Each of the 12 people received $64,942 yen, or $854, Greb said, with the understanding that, if able in the future, they will pay the money back to SIEA, to provide additional relief in the event of future natural disasters.
“W&J not only has stepped up to address an important immediate need, but has created a lifeline for the future,” Greb said. “Hopefully, something like this will never happen again. We are dealing with people who have nothing left. Should they ever get back on their feet, they will pay the money back and it will be there to redistribute as needed, creating a perpetual fund.”
W&J is a partner with SIEA in planning W&J’s trips to Japan and Greb knew the money would most quickly get in the hands of people from the area in need by working through SIEA. The funds were presented by Mari Ueno Phillippi, a tour guide who has organized and attended many of W&J’s trips to Samukawa.
“It was important that we helped on a one-to-one level and gave it to flesh and blood,” Greb said, adding that the bank waived any fees to transfer from dollars to yen, making sure all money raised went to the people in need in a timely manner.
One of the recipients of the money is a member of a family of three.
“I have not forgotten for even a day how March 11 was. Even these days when I see water creeping up, I remember the time when we ran away from the tsunami chasing us,” H. Watanabe said. “In the past half a year, so many people helped us and we received a lot of kindness. So I can live every day with my heart being warm. Please let those kind people know our appreciation. I will do my best to rebuild my life.”
Greb has made the study of Japanese culture a centerpiece of his scholarship at W&J, and the Edward and Barbara Greb Travel Award he and his wife established assists students who study abroad during Intersession.