RIPON — A few months ago, students from Colony Oak School were met with shock and dismay of the disastrous events in Japan.
But with help from Huroka DeArth, who is a parent of a fifth-grade student – then-Principal Sylvia Eheler also supported the idea, she said – they were able to put together and deliver messages of hope and support to the survivors in Tohoku who lost friends, family, homes and schools during the March 11 earthquakes and tsunami, sending over 230 letters and drawings while also raising money as part of the relief effort.
“These were letters that expressed sympathy and love of people they never met,” said DeArth during her presentation at last Monday’s Ripon Unified school board meeting.
The 9.0 magnitude undersea mega thrust off the Pacific coast of Tohoku was the most powerful earthquake ever recorded to have hit Japan. The country’s National Police Agency confirmed over 15,500 deaths, nearly 5,700 injured, and over 5,300 missing.
“A three-story school was hit by the tsunami but all of the children had been evacuated in time,” DeArth added.
Meanwhile, the humanitarian efforts of the Colony Oak students didn’t go unnoticed.
A Los Angeles crew from Japan’s Asahi TV came to Ripon to meet with the youngsters.
Between April 29 and May 1, TV Asahi aired “Letters from America to Japan” as a short news report. Included were interviews with some of the Colony Oak students, who also had their work featured in the report.
“I was shocked to see schools that were completely destroyed,” said Eric Jacobs.
Anna Boersma wrote: “I hope you guys are okay and you are safe. I wish I could clean up the wreck with you. But we can’t because California is so, so far from Japan. I hope it doesn’t happen again.”
The TV report was conducted in Japanese, with DeArth serving as an interpreter to the school board and those attending last week’s meeting.
“It was a very thoughtful news report,” Trustee Kit Oase said. “It was great to see that we have kids who are making a difference.”