On 11 March, 2011 Hiroki Takai was studying at a university in Vancouver. Instead of feeling helpless at the steadily flowing images of destruction in the media following the Tohoku Earthquake and tsunami, he quickly took action and gathered other Japanese students to raise money for their homeland. Thanks to the students’ efforts and the generosity of the people of Vancouver the “Japan Love Project” managed to raise CAN$320,000 (US$288,000) in aid.

Now, with the 3-year anniversary of the Great Tohoku Earthquake approaching, Takai wanted to pay the kindness of the Canadians back. As a part of the International Volunteer University Student Association (IVUSA) he asked for a team to travel to the West coast of Canada to help clean up the still-increasing driftage that is washing up on its shores. Headed by fourth-year Ritsumeikan University student Yusuke Oike, a crew of 70 students answered the call.

Oike is a member of the Ai Tsunagu Project, a part of the IVUSA that has been active at relief and rebuilding efforts in earthquake and tsunami affected areas of Japan. In this Canadian project their goal is threefold.

First, from 7 to 14 March the students aim to remove ten tons of debris from the beaches of Vancouver Island. Although ten tons sounds like a lot, it’s only a portion of the 1.5 million tons that the Ministry of the Environment has estimated to have been floating in the Pacific Ocean since 2011.

The group is working in cooperation with Karla Robison, the environmental and emergency services manager in Ucluelet who will help to process the collected debris. According to Yahoo! Japan News she said, “I’m thrilled to have so many students come to help. It’s real proof of their friendship.”

Secondly, the students also hope to recover any sentimental items that may have survived the trip to North America and return them to their owners. Perhaps something as simple as a lost trinket could help bring solace to a struggling family in Japan. Unfortunately, even with 70 volunteers it is a large job in a short time. Moreover, much of it will be done in remote parts of Vancouver Island.

The students themselves are paying for the airfare and accommodations out of pocket, but to help cover the costs of transportation in Canada they have taken to Japanese crowdfunding site Readyfor. Their goal is to raise 2,000,000 yen ($19,000) by 28 February.

As of this writing and with a little over one day left, they have received 1,323,000 yen ($12,000), but still need more to cover their work expenses. If they don’t make it at least Oike and the others will have achieved their third goal of the project and probably the most important one: to stop the memory of the 3-11 tragedy from fading out of people’s minds. Whether it’s the environmental damage on the west coast of Canada or the suffering of the displaced people on the east coast of Japan, even three years on we should remember that their pain isn’t fading away without our help in any way we can.

Source: Readyfor via Yahoo! News Japan (Japanese)
Video: YouTube – Akao Nanako

***If you’d like to donate (before the end of February) or learn more about the Ai Tsunagu Project you can go to the Readyfor? website or their Facebook page.***