LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) – A Texas Tech Professor from Japan has inspired students and the campus to pitch in and help those in need who are suffering after last month's 9.0 earthquake and tsunami.
After the disaster, Hiro Umehara sent a few emails and now a group on campus is on its way to raising thousands of dollars.
"I have to start something," Umehara explained outside the Student Union Building on campus. He is thousands of miles away from his wife and family who live in Tokyo, Japan. He left Japan to teach Japanese at TTU and earn his master's degree in applied linguistics.
Feeling almost helpless at first, Umehara believed his campus community could make a difference. "I was so proud, so moved. They are not Japanese, they are just taking my class but realized that there is something more."
Shortly after the quake hit, students got together and formed the group Texas Tech Japan Earthquake Relief Cause. The students sit outside for hours, in between their classes, asking for donations. Students and faculty have dropped everything from change to $100 bills in the two boxes designated for relief efforts. All the money will go to a non-profit organization on the ground in Japan that provides disaster relief.
"The first week we raised $5,000, so it is amazing that Texas Tech students are donating for a cause miles away," said Taylor Hardin, a Mass Communications student who has studied abroad in Japan. While Umehara isn't Hardin's professor, he is currently taking a Japanese language class. He and another student, Chris Stidman, are using their backgrounds in communications to help spread the word across campus and to the local community.
"It's hard to watch the videos from Japan, but we are doing something on the other end of the world to help," said Stidman.
Umehara's immediate family is okay. He says basic items like eggs, milk and gasoline are hard to come by. He has friends, though, that have lost everything.
"I'm just so thankful for people at Tech because they are so willing to help. They give us hope," Umehara said.
The group hopes to raise $10,000 for Civic Force, a Japanese non-profit.
Students will host a Japanese Awareness Day and a community garage sale to raise money. Event information will be posted to the group's Facebook page.
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