City Makes $21,000 Donation Toward Japan Disaster Relief

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - The city’s Sister Cities Association issued a $21,000 check to Mayor James Cahill on Wednesday, June 29, that will be sent to a city in Japan to help with disaster relief.

The money will be sent to one of New Brunswick’s four sister cities, Tsuruoka, Japan, whose mayor, Masaki Enomoto will give it to a charity foundation geared toward helping Japanese children orphaned by the Mar. 11 tsunami and earthquake.

Although the amount of money is small, it will have an enormous impact on the people of Japan, Cahill said.

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The city received a $15,000 check from the Tsuruoka in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center towers in 2001. The funds were donated to a charity foundation to help with the aftermath.

It was for this reason the city felt such a powerful obligation to help raise money to assist Tsuruoka in its clean-up efforts, Cahill said, noting that the Japanese city had extended “the hand of friendship and humanity” to the U.S. in its time of need.

Jane Tublin, director of international programs at the Sister Cities Association, said she received phone calls offering help to the people of Japan

“Everybody wanted to reciprocate and help them in a way that would show them that we cared in the same way they showed us,” she said.

The foundation chosen by Enomoto is the Ashinaga-Ikueikai Charity, a global organization that set up a specific program to help the victims of this year’s disaster, she said.

“So the mayor picked that because he thought these children had lost their protectors, which are their parents,” she said. “They need to be educated and they need to have an environment in which they can grow.”

The Sister Cities Association received money from city residents, school administrators, students and teachers, the New Brunswick Rotary Club, the police department, the courts and several churches, she said.

McKinley Community Elementary School raised money with their “Fans for Japan” program for which students constructed and decorated Japanese-style fans and hung them in the school’s lobby.

New Brunswick High School raised around $3,000 for the project by having an Origamithon, where students folded origami cranes to raise money for donation, said special education teacher Dawn Cuccolo. She spearheaded the initiative and got the idea for the Origamithon from a Japanese tradition.

“There’s a custom in Japan where you fold 1,000 cranes and it grants people a wish in times of difficulty or need,” she said. “Right then I just said, ‘Well let’s have an origami marathon to raise funds…. Everyone just got very excited.”

Cuccolo and her husband, Rocco, and high school Japanese teacher Yoko Sugimura were on hand to greet representatives from the Asian nation at Monument Square.

Although the administrators, teachers and parents provided support for the students throughout the endeavor, most of the recognition must be given to them, Sigimura said.

 “It was remarkable that so many different students came forward,” Cuccolo said. “It really allowed some of our students an opportunity to shine.”

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