Student organizations to raise funds for Japan relief efforts

After a disastrous tsunami and earthquake hit Japan on March 11, the USF community began efforts to raise money to help the country recover.

Students can make paper cranes for $2 each at the Paper Cranes for Japan event today in Marshall Student Center (MSC) Atrium from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Members of USF’s Japanese Club, the sponsors of the event, will help donors create their origami cranes.

Cranes will also be collected from noon to 4 p.m. today through April 7 at the MSC information desk. The Japanese Club will donate proceeds to the Japanese Red Cross, which is coordinating relief efforts.

“We decided to do this Japanese tradition, and we’re planning to take donations of $2 for each crane,” Japanese Club President Mellanie De Mata said. “We’ll string the cranes together and make it look like the Japanese flag.”

Jeff Gao, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering, said the club has yet to decide where to hang the flag once it is completed. They are expecting a significant number of cranes to work with, he said.

“The idea of this is when we make a thousand cranes, a wish comes true (according to Japanese culture),” Gao said.

De Mata said the goal is to make a thousand cranes, but the club hopes there will be more.

According to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, there are 10,901 confirmed deaths and 17,649 people reported as missing as a result of the natural disaster. Thousands have been left homeless.

Because of the need for support, other USF organizations have joined with the Japanese club to sponsor other fundraising events.

USF fraternity Sigma Beta Rho organized a fundraiser with fast-food chain Panda Express, which starts today at noon and ends at 4 p.m. The restaurant, located on Fowler Avenue, will donate 20 percent of patrons’ orders to relief efforts. Students must specify that their purchase should be donated toward Japanese relief efforts.

Another fraternity, Alpha Kappa Delta Phi, will host a Cultural Awareness Day event April 4 from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. where cranes will be collected and Japan relief shirts will be sold. Donated food will be offered along with performances.

Francis Maraj, a graduate student in international studies and founder of, has also sold “I Love Japan” T-shirts on campus and through the website since March 25.

“All of the proceeds are going to the Japanese Red Cross,” De Mata said. “More than 500 shirts have been sold.”

De Mata said the event plans were formulated immediately after the disaster.

“(The disaster) happened during spring break, so during spring break a lot of ideas were being thrown around,” De Mata said. “Since we’re the Japanese Club, a lot of people got in contact with me asking to do something. Pi Delta Psi asked to do a charity dinner, and I thought that was the best way to get people involved.”

The next event the Japanese Club has planned is a charity dinner scheduled for April 7.

“It’s going to be $5 to come in,” Gao said. “We’re going to have sushi, of course, and all kinds of Asian food. It’s going to be $5 to get a plate of food, you’ll be enjoying some speakers who have families who have been affected by (the disaster in Japan).”

The dinner event will be followed by a candlelight vigil in the Martin Luther King Plaza. De Mata said the Japanese Club is looking for a charity to donate the dinner proceeds to.

“We were looking at the numbers, which charity donated this much to Japan, and some people are 90 percent, 80 percent, and the one that had the most was not the Japanese Red Cross,” she said. “We want all the money to go to Japan.”