Students Raise Money for Japanese Disaster with PANDA

Students snacking packs of brightly colored “Hi-Chew” and Pocky around campus may have overlooked the story behind their snacks, which were part of a Phillips Academy for Natural Disasters Aid (PANDA) fundraiser to help Youth for 3.11 and Rebuilding Houses in Damaged Areas, two relief organizations for Japan’s recent earthquake and tsunami.

Over a month ago, the disaster left Japan with nearly 20,000 people either missing or dead.

The fundraiser began on Tuesday and will continue to sell candy until the end of the week. PANDA raised $400 on the first day and also collected $600 from West Quad South’s Casino Night.

Youth for 3.11, a non-profit organization started by alumna Kentaro Watari ’07, aims to “send as many student volunteers as possible to the stricken areas in order to reconstruct the disastrous areas of Tohoku,” according to their website.

The other recipient of PANDA’s donations, Rebuilding Houses in Damaged Areas, was also started by a Phillips Academy alumna, Mia Kanak ’07. The group sends money to specific schools in Fukushima, near the affected Fukushima Daichi Nuclear Reactor, that have been demolished.

Yuto Watanabe ’11, a coordinator of the fundraising efforts and Co-President of the Andover Japanese Club (AJC), said that the fundraiser’s organizers head planned to donate their profits to the Red Cross, but decided to help smaller, more focused non-profits.

Hayato Lee ’12, a member of PANDA, said, “These funds don’t go to some big organization and get distributed. You know where the money is going. It’s going to make a direct impact.”

Originally, Lee and the other fundraiser coordinators planned to open a table in front of Commons and ask for donations. After a Phillips Academy alumnus donated a large box of candy to PANDA asking them to sell the Japanese treats to raise money for the cause, however, they launched the current fundraiser.

Derrick Choi ’12 said, “I think this is a great way to raise money for Japan. They have gone through a lot lately with the economy down and now the earthquake, but hopefully our support will make a big difference.”

PANDA plans to introduce different fundraising techniques to raise more money for Japan.

“We’re trying to do other things like host a dance or sell t-shirts, we don’t have to do this immediately, because the rebuilding is going to take a long time, but we’ll definitely have more coming,” said Watanabe.

Seika Nagao ’12, a board member of AJC, said that they plan to try to send profits from the Asian Arts Festival to the two causes.

Lee said, “We were planning on asking the lacrosse team or the Frisbee team to play a charity game on one of the ‘under the lights’ events, and we could go through the stands selling t-shirts, candies, that sort of thing. We’ll just try to raise as much money as possible because we’re donating to two really great groups.”

Lee will write a bi-weekly newsletter following the fundraising efforts for the “Andover Gazette.”

“We are trying to keep the momentum of Japanese relief going, by keeping the idea of helping Japan constant in everyone’s minds,” said Lee.

Susanne Torabi, International Student Coordinator, originally started PANDA for the Sichuan Earthquake in 2008. Since then, PANDA has raised money for many subsequent natural disasters.