By Brooks Baehr - bio | email
MAILI (HawaiiNewsNow) – The Konishiki Kids Foundation is making plans to bring children from tsunami ravaged Northern Japan to Hawaii.
"You kind of show what the aloha spirit is, how we live our lives here," former sumo wrestler Konishiki told Hawaii News Now during a recent interview at his home in Maili.
Konishiki grew up on Oahu, but has lived in Japan for the past 28 years. He was so moved by the plight of people following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that he organized a relief effort for people living in emergency shelters. In April Konishiki took a team of volunteers into the some of the hardest hit areas. They brought thousands of pounds of food, then cooked and served hot meals to refugees living in the shelters.
"That's the only thing you could really do, yea for the moment," he said.
Konishiki and friends plan to make a second trip to emergency shelters in June. He also plans to add a new wrinkle to his Konishiki Kids Foundation.
Since 1997 the foundation has taken children from the Waianae Coast to spend a week in Japan.
"They experience cultural things like a tea ceremony. They go to a sumo stable actually watch sumo practice in the morning. They actually watch a sumo tournament," he said.
But after seeing first-hand the devastation on Northern Honshu island, Konishiki wants to bring children whose lives have been impacted by the tsunami to Hawaii.
"You want to show them how we play. How we live our regular lives every day. Take them away. Try to calm their feelings and maybe they can go back with a happier inner feeling to take back home," he added.
Konishiki's career has involved children since he retired from Sumo 14 years ago. He is the host of a popular children's television show. His character on the show is called Koni-Chan. It's Konishiki in a large orange costume. For a better look at Koni-Chan and Konishiki's work at the refugee shelters, watch the video that corresponds with this story (upper right of screen).
Konishiki wants the world to know, there are still an estimated 120,000 people living in shelters in Japan. They continue to need assistance.
"You got people head to head, people sleeping next to each other. They have a cardboard in between a person they don't know and it's like that throughout the whole shelter."
"Please don't forget. It's not an overnighter," he told Hawaii News Now.
Anyone interested in learning more about Konishiki's relief efforts or his Konishiki's Kids Foundation can visit the following web sites.
For information on how to help with his next trip to the disaster zone, contact Michele Leao at 286-1009 or email@example.com.
Donations can be sent to:
PO Box 2957 Waianae, Hawaii 96792.
Copyright 2011 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.
See previous story: Konishiki, sumotori savior in tsunami zone.