Kids helping kids

WHS student organizes benefit concert for Save the Children organization

When 16-year-old Washougal High School student Nani Sasaki first heard about the massive earthquake that hit Japan in March, she wasn’t sure how to respond.

“It was really sad,” she said. “I didn’t know what to think about it at first. Nothing like that ever happens in Washington. I just don’t know what I would do in that situation.”

The 9.0 magnitude earthquake rocked the east coast of Japan on Friday, March 11. It then triggered a tsunami that produced waves estimated at up to 128 feet. According to news reports, the event left more than 10,000 people dead, as well as thousands who injured. There now are tens of thousands of displaced survivors.

Following the earthquake, Sasaki’s Japanese teacher Shoko Fuchigami asked her students to imagine they were in Japan as English teachers at the time of the disaster.

“I told them to ask themselves: What would you do? How would you feel?,” she said. “I think it helped them to connect a little bit more.”

It wasn’t long before Sasaki knew exactly what she wanted to do to reach out to help.

Just months earlier, the WHS junior had organized her first benefit concert to support a mission trip being planned by some members of her Camas church to help rebuild in New Orleans.

She had wanted to be part of that River Rock Church mission herself, but was already committed to attend a trip to California with her high school band. Sasaki instead decided to help by organizing a concert fundraiser. The event was a success and made $500 in profits.

“That’s what made me really want to do this concert for the Japan earthquake victims,” said Sasaki, whose father Derek is Japanese. “I knew I could do it and it was fun to plan.”

The concert is set for Friday, June 17, at Coffee Revolution inside River Rock Church, 2008 S.E. Eighth Ave. The doors open at 6:30 p.m., and music begins at 7 p.m. The concert, open to all ages, will include music by heavy metal band Olesya, rap group Living Witness, acoustic band Cap Guns and Corduroy, and others.

The suggested donation is $4 per person, and additional contributions will also be accepted. The coffee bar will be closed but glow sticks donated by Sasaki’s mom, Roni, as well as water will be sold to patrons.

All proceeds will benefit Save the Children, an independent organization that responds to disasters around the world, including the earthquake in Japan, by providing food, medical care and education, as well as help rebuilding communities through long-term recovery programs. There is a special focus on the needs of children impacted by those disasters.

Fuchigami, who has friends and family in Japan who were not injured during the earthquake, said she is impressed by Sasaki’s persistence and continued efforts to make the event happen.

“All of my students are creative; they have great ideas,” Fuchigami said. “But it’s hard to get them to carry it out.”

“Nani did this all by herself, outside of class, which is amazing.”

The event will also serve as a final end-of-the-school-year gathering for the students taking the two Japanese classes currently offered at WHS.

Due to budget restrictions and the fact that Fuchigami will be taking a leave of absence during the 2011-12 school year to continue her academic studies in special eduction, Japanese will not be offered. However, the seven-year WHS teacher hopes the program will be revived.

“We are hoping to bring a bigger program back the following year,” she said.

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