Help Japan, help yourself

I couldn’t stop watching CNN and checking online blogs on Thursday, the day a 8.9-magnitude earthquake rocked Tokyo and caused a deadly 13-foot tsunami that destroyed coastal cities in Northern Japan.

We didn’t know the impact of both disasters until the next morning, when daylight revealed the devastation. Entire cities were destroyed. Homes were flattened. Thousands of bodies washed ashore along the coastline. And hundreds of thousands of people were missing or living in evacuation shelters.

We watched the massive wave push through towns and farmlands with such fierceness it didn’t seem real. And now there’s fear of a nuclear disaster.

This is so much bigger than anyone had anticipated. (See before and after scenes on CNN.)

There has been some discussion online about the world’s response to helping Japan, comparing it to the relief effort for Hurricane Katrina-stricken areas in Louisiana and Mississippi and the catastrophic earthquake that hit impoverished Haiti last year.

But the need to help — in whatever way, for whatever personal reason — is imperative. And while you may wonder how your $10 donation to the American Red Cross through its text-messaging campaign can help, consider this: more than $1 million has already been collected through this program for the relief effort in Japan. In just a few days. That’s how every dollar can add up.

We were lucky in Hawaii. Yes, there were lost homes, sunken boats and damaged piers caused by the tsunami that hit the state on Friday morning — totaling millions of dollars in damage — but that’s nothing compared to the devastation in Japan.

So there’s no reason why we can’t help.

I spent Thursday night packing my most important belongings in a small suitcase as we evacuated to my parents’ house in Kalihi. It was a bit unnerving trying to decide what in this two-bedroom rental was worth keeping. Passports, family photos, external hard drives, my favorite surfboard. But what about the ceramic pot my sister made for me when she was in preschool? Or the boxes of letters I have from my pen pal in Colorado who’s been writing to me since we were in second grade? Or the shelves of my favorite books?

Thankfully, nothing happened to the stuff I had left behind. But I think about the families who lost everything — including daughters, sons, grandmothers, fathers, mothers, uncles, friends, neighbors, beloved pets. How could I compare people to books and ceramic pots?

You can help. You should help. Because one day we might be the ones who need it.



• Text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10 to Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami to help the American Red Cross relief efforts. You can also drop off monetary donations at the Hawaii chapter office at 4155 Diamond Head Rd.

Purchase an Aloha for Japan T-shirt from Butigroove with proceeds supporting the American Red Cross’ relief effort. Cost is $20. The fundraiser is led by comedian Lanai Tabura and designers from HI Life Clothing, Fitted, In4mation, Butigroove, Barefoot League and Aloha Army. Also available at Butigroove Hawaii (500 Piikoi St.), Fitted Hawaii (1438 Kona St.), In4mation (Ward Warehouse), Barefoot League (880 Kapahulu Ave.)

• Give to Global Giving, which is raising money that will be given to a variety of relief organizations helping victims of the earthquake. It has already raised more than $100,000. Give online or text JAPAN to 50555 and give $10.

• Help the Salvation Army organize efforts to help and distribute basic necessities to Sendai by donating online or texting JAPAN to 80888 and giving $10.

• The International Fund for Animal Welfare have mobilized to assist with animal rescue efforts. Donate online to help.