Japanese ex-pats get, give help in Hawaii

Debbie Nakashima
Debbie Nakashima
Yoshi Kamo
Yoshi Kamo

By Teri Okita – bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Japanese ex-pats here in Hawaii can't help but be worried about what's happening back home. Many are doing what they can to get and give help.

At a table set up outside the Hawaii Pacific University's downtown campus, every one of the students has ties to Japan. Most are from there, and it's been a tough four days.

Songfee Choa, president of HPU's Japanese Students Association says, "A lot of people were just scared, and they were just emailing, texting, saying 'I can't get in touch with my friends'. I couldn't get in touch with my mom for a couple of days, also, until I got an email from her saying it was okay."

About 120 Japanese nationals are enrolled at HPU. To help weather the crisis, the school is providing counselors to talk them through any anxious moments.

"They are able to walk in. They are able to make appointments, and they are able to email," says Debbie Nakashima, HPU's Executive Director of Student Academic Services. "It affects their classroom work. It affects their relationships with roommates, so those are all things that we look for."

As the tragedy unfolded in their home country, these students felt they needed to take action - so they launched their own relief effort. The students will be manning a donation box and accepting relief funds all week at the downtown campus, from 9 am to 4 pm.

Over at the Japanese consulate in Honolulu, the phone calls keep pouring in. Employees are referring worried tourists and ex-pats to the consulate's website - which has information on how to reach relatives back home through mobile phone companies.

At the moment, we do not know the real scale of the damage or the loss of life," says Consul General of Japan in Honolulu, Yoshi Kamo. "It's enormous. There are still a really huge number of people missing."

The consulate estimates that, at any given time, about 30 thousand Japanese - either tourists or residents - are here in the islands, and Kamo says they're encouraged - and their spirits uplifted – by the strong show of support from the people of Hawaii.

If you are looking for a missing relative or friend in Japan, this website's homepage has a "people finder" on the lower right side of the screen. Enter a name to see if there's any information on that missing person.

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