After the devastating earthquake and tsunami of March 11, many of us in the JET/foreign teacher community of Yamagata felt an overwhelming urge to somehow help in the face of this grave humanitarian catastrophe. Many homegrown relief efforts have sprung up around the country since that day, including one based in Tsuruoka called the LIVE Supporter Donation Drive. Spearheaded by private English school owner Mark Stewart, two local businessmen, and the ALT community in Tsuruoka, the LIVE Drive set up a donation drop location and hit the streets with signs, balloons, and hordes of genki foreigners urging passers-by to stop and donate supplies for tsunami victims. The drive kicked off on March 19 and ran straight for four days, with the intention of continuing over weekends for three weeks. JETs and their friends from all over Yamagata descended upon Tsuruoka to help out and the response was truly overwhelming. High school student volunteers were also enlisted and the words spread through friends, colleagues, and coverage in the Shonai, Nippo and Yamagata Shinbun newspapers. Many vanloads of essential goods were collected, sorted, packed and delivered by private vehicles to Rikuzentakata, Iwate. The following two weekends also saw the LIVE Drive hit the streets, and after folding up the tent on Sunday April 3 and loading three more vans, the drive has been called an unqualified success.
Massive congrats to all you lovely people who came out and lent your support to this project.
By Corey Ticknor, Tsuruoka