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Summer 2011

Acts of Compassion
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Summer 2011 - Cover Story

Doing What She Can to Help

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Women living in evacuation centers read the notes of hope from ‘Iolani students. The notes were delivered through Hawaii Tourism Japan. (Photo by Lea Okudara ’00)
Lea Okudara ’00 has lived in Tokyo for three years and works for Hawai‘i Tourism Japan, which promotes leisure travel to Hawai‘i. She was home in Hawai‘i when the March 11 earthquake struck but returned to Tokyo the next day. She has been actively involved with relief efforts and delivered notes from ‘Iolani students to people living in evacuation shelters. The ‘Iolani School Bulletin asked her a few questions through email.

‘Iolani School Bulletin: Why or what inspired you to help?

It’s important to give back, especially to those in need and those in your backyard. I was especially inspired by everyone in Hawai‘i who has been incredibly supportive and has shown so much aloha for Japan. You cannot help but to build on that momentum and do what you can. For us, it was easier since we had overwhelming support from the tourism industry which made our Aloha for Japan Relief Drive possible. 

‘Iolani School Bulletin: What are the most important lessons you’re learning?

I have been extremely touched and humbled by this experience. It has given me a different perspective on life and loss. It has reminded me not to sweat the small stuff and to be grateful for everything that we do have. The people of Miyagi have lost their loved ones, their homes and their jobs, and yet they are incredibly strong, persevering and genki. Their smiles and laughter through these tough times has impacted me beyond words. It has made me realize that you should never give up and that hope and happiness is just around the corner, no matter what the circumstances.

‘Iolani School Bulletin: What are some of the stories behind the people in the evacuation centers?

Those that we met at the evacuation centers are from Natori City or Tagajyo City in the Miyagi Prefecture. (The volunteers are from all over Japan). All evacuees have been displaced by the devastation. Their homes were either completely wiped out or damaged beyond repair. Some have lost their spouses, parents, children or all of the above. Their emotional distress is beyond their physical losses, but as mentioned above, their strength and resilience is simply amazing and inspiring. 

One of the hula dancers that joined us from Sendai for example, lost her husband in the tsunami. Yet she volunteered to help us during our relief drive to cheer up others in need. Her empathy and aloha spirit helped us to reach out to those in despair.

This has been an amazing experience for me and I want to express my utmost gratitude and praise for everyone who contributed to this letter drive. It has brought solace, comfort and aloha to those affected by the recent disasters. Such a simple gesture can make such a huge impact on those in need. Thank you again to everyone who supported this effort. We really appreciate it.

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Comments from Readers

  1. 90e0895d22ce8610429286d0a62efde4
    John Kugisaki on 11/10/2011 at 8:53pm

    This is a great interpretation of this disaster from a ground level perspectve. It speaks volumes about the strength of our Japanese nation and thier strength to perservere through adverse and trying times. -JK