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Friday, Oct 31, 2014

Light Rain, 44 °F

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Chubu areal view

Nine of the 10 Ohio University students assisting with this weekend's disaster relief efforts in tsunami-affected regions of Japan are studying at Chubu University (pictured here) in Nagoya.

Photo courtesy of: Office of Education Abroad

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Students to assist with tsunami relief in Japan

Trip highlights college-wide commitment to service learning


This weekend, ten Ohio University students studying in Japan will assist with relief efforts in areas affected by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Of the 10 students, 9 are enrolled at Chubu University in Nagoya, and one is studying at Musashi University in Tokyo.

Christopher Thompson, associate professor of Japanese language and culture and director of the OU-Japan study abroad programs, is coordinating travel to the Iwate prefecture, the area most affected by the disaster. 

According to Catherine Marshall, director of the Office of Education Abroad, the group has been unaffected by Typhoon Roke, which slammed into Japan Wednesday, bringing heavy rains and winds of up to 100 mph.

Thompson and Thomas Scanlan, associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences, will accompany students on the service trip.

"This effort reflects a commitment by the College of Arts and Sciences to explore ways to integrate service learning into our curriculum, and I am very proud to be a part of it," said Scanlan.

In addition to the College of Arts and Sciences, the Division of Student Affairs and the Provost's Office have donated to the program, making the trip more affordable for attending students. More than $8,500 has been raised to support travel, lodging and food for the three-day trip to Hanamaki, Iwate, in northeast Japan. Each participating student also contributed $150.
 
Senior international studies major Laney Knight said she is looking forward to actively supporting the disaster relief.  Knight intended to study in Japan last March, but her trip was postponed due to the threat of nuclear radiation following the earthquake and tsunami.  

"So now we get to go, and the thing that stopped us, we actually get to help with," she said. "We all did donate as much as we could to the Red Cross, but now we actually get to physically do something. It's going to be really great to actually make a difference."

In addition to the community service component, the trip will also include several cultural events, at the request of the local community.

"Our trip is very much a bottom-up trip where we're asking the local people how do you want us to help you, and one of the things they want is for us to appreciate their culture," explained Thompson.

Thompson's passion for the region stems from more than 25 years of research in northeast Japan. He said he hopes Ohio University's service will help to build morale in the affected region and pave the way for future student volunteer opportunities.

"We want to create human ties and long-term relationships with communities, educational institutions and also the people of Hanamaki," Thomspon said. "It's a relief trip, but it’s a lot richer than that."