Stuyvesant students showed their generosity by donating to the Red Cross and the Japanese National Honor Society to help relief efforts in the recent Japanese earthquake. While some donors were satisfied with the wrist bands or pins they were given for their donations, others were concerned about the donation process. Often, contributors rarely know where different clubs will send the money. Many wonder where these donations go, whether Japan even receives them, and who is in charge of the money. Others avoid donating altogether, because they are hesitant to trust organizations claiming to support Japan.
The Stuyvesant Red Cross and Japanese National Honor Society were the main coordinators for Japanese relief fundraising. Though the two clubs had originally worked separately, they believed that working together would bring greater success. Volunteers made paper cranes and sold baked goods and wrist bands to raise money. By the end of their fundraising, both clubs had raised a combined sum of over $4,000. The total amount will be split in half between Stuyvesant’s National Honor Society and Red Cross, and each club will then send their shares to their chosen charities.
“Japanese [people] refrain from advertising their troubles because of honor, but at the same time people stood up and wanted to help. I was touched,” said Japanese teacher and Japanese National Honor Society faculty adviser Chie Helinski. Helinski, who herself is Japanese, wants students’ donations to be as effective as possible and will give the Japanese National Honor Society’s share to Japan Society.
Japan Society is a non-profit organization that provides support to refugees in Japan. They will use the money to supply survivors with food, water, paper goods, and other basic commodities. Helinski trusts that the Japan Society will use all the money raised to directly help people in need rather than to keep a portion of it for the organization’s own funds. She also suggests that people donate money instead of material goods, because money is much more convenient for operational use. Often, trucks carry donated goods, but in devastated areas, roads are blocked or destroyed, making mobility impossible. Goods have to be carried by boat to reach cities like Sendai, one of the hardest hit cities. When given money, volunteers can afford to shelter people and supply them with basic necessities.
The Stuyvesant Red Cross will give their donations to the American Red Cross, with whom they are affiliated with. However, unlike the Japan Society, the American Red Cross is not entirely scrupulous about giving 100 percent of donations to refugees. “Even though they are nonprofit, truth be told, not all of it will go to the cause, although, a good portion will,” senior and Stuyvesant Red Cross President Ashley Qian said.
The Red Cross, an emergency response organization, has opened approximately 1,800 shelters for civilians left homeless after the earthquake. During efforts to help Haiti after its earthquake, the Red Cross was largely criticized for its inability to meet the criteria of a nonprofit organization. Due to its debt of over $600 million and its several operating deficits, nine percent of donations pay for salaries, fundraising costs, and administration. Originally, the Red Cross solely had volunteers run projects, but employees are now hired in an effort to increase reliability and efficiency. Despite the cuts that the Red Cross takes from donations, Qian said, “[Students] definitely should not be hesitant [to donate], because the Red Cross is one of the few organizations doing something as of now.”
With its donations, the Red Cross, like Japan Society, will provide essentials for survivors. Refugees have already received emergency kits, which include portable radios, flashlights, blankets, and other supplies. The money allows the organization to procure diapers, baby food, clothes, and face masks. Donations aid health facilities and shelters in paying for the costs of caring for victims. Aside from providing material goods, volunteers help people cope with their distressed reality, giving them psychological comfort.
In addition to contributing to the American Red Cross, Stuyvesant Red Cross also held the Paper Crane Fest which was on Tuesday, March 29, along with BuildOn and the Japanese National Honor Society. Through this event, volunteers created paper cranes. For each crane made, $2 was donated by the Bezos Family Foundation to Architecture for Humanity. The Bezos Family Foundation is a private independent foundation. With their help, Architecture for Humanity can now afford the reconstruction of homes and buildings in devastated Japanese cities, partnering with local architects.
Though the process of donating can become cumbersome when approached with a cautious attitude, most organizations are reliable and donate fairly large percentages of donations to the intended cause. It is recommended, however, that money be given to reputable places, especially larger and more widely known groups. The fundraising done by the Japanese National Honor Society and the Stuyvesant Red Cross allows students to donate not with skepticism, but with gratification and paper cranes.