Syracuse University Magazine


Campus Rallies to Aid Earthquake and Tsunami Victims

School of Architecture professor Yutaka Sho was walking her dog in March when a neighbor told her to call her mother in Japan. Sho, a native of Tokyo, had been busy and was unaware that Japan had been struck by a devastating earthquake and tsunami and one of its nuclear power plants was on the brink of disaster. "I was kind of numb when I finally heard about it," she says. Sho attempted to contact her loved ones back home that day, but couldn’t reach them as phone lines and the Internet were clogged. Eventually, she got through to her family and learned they were safe. She then reached out to campus and community leaders through local media outlets to raise awareness about the disaster and support relief efforts. "I don’t even consider myself a media person," she says with a smile.

Across campus, Sho and several campus groups mounted fund-raising efforts, ranging from constructing paper cranes and hosting an art auction to collecting donations. By Commencement, the groups had raised more than $14,000 for Japanese relief. One of the groups—Project Paper Crane—was created by School of Architecture students. With help from such organizations as Asian Students in America, the Society of Multicultural Architects and Designers, and Sigma Chi, Project Paper Crane organized fund-raising events throughout the spring semester, including an art auction at Studio X in New York City. "It was a way to take what’s happening here at Syracuse to New York," says architecture graduate student David Schragger, a Project Paper Crane leader. "We brought in more support through more avenues."

The project’s most visible initiative was a display of orange origami cranes on the lawn between the Schine Student Center and the Newhouse School complex. According to Japanese legend, if a person folds 1,000 paper cranes, then he or she is granted a wish. Project Paper Crane’s wish was to enlist students to fold cranes and raise funds. The result: Students created 3,000 orange paper cranes and collected $6,000 for the Japanese Society Earthquake Relief Fund. For each crane folded, students donated $2 either on the organization’s web site or at a display table in Schine. Alumni were also asked to donate $2 online, matching the students’ donation.

With University approval, the Japanese Student Association (JSA) placed donation collection boxes near such high-traffic areas as Bird Library, the Slutzker Center for International Services, and Sims Hall. JSA members also talked to the SU Bookstore about letting customers make donations at the register. "I saw so many people on television who were affected by the disaster," says JSA vice president Midori Shiroyama, a College of Visual and Performing Arts graduate student. "When you see all those images, you want to do something about it." By Commencement, JSA had raised more than $8,000 for the Consulate General of Japan in New York. As a group of 50, JSA didn’t have the resources to mount a large effort, but members still wanted to contribute to aid relief. "Eventually, it will all go to Japan," Shiroyama says.

While Sho worried the rolling blackouts in Japan would affect her mother’s three-times-a-week kidney dialysis treatments, she took solace in the work SU students did to help Japan. "It’s going to take forever for Japan to recover," she says. "But this shows Scholarship in Action, and Syracuse is practicing what it preaches."

Charnice Milton