Reaching out to our sister-city Naraha Japan.
Much of the news about the earthquake and tsunamis in Japan has been focused on the city of Sendai because it is a city of a million people. It is also still accessible to the media but close enough to the affected Fukushima nuclear power plants to portray the effects of the plants on local residents. However, there are many more villages and towns in that area that were also devastated. The City of Euclid’s sister-city Naraha-Machi is one of them. A farming town of approximately 8,000 residents, it is also the site of one of the nuclear plants that is having so much trouble. The news media and aid groups cannot access the town because of the troubled plants.
Euclid and Naraha have enjoyed a sister-city relationship since the early ‘90’s. Naraha paid for a Euclid teacher to go to Naraha to teach English at their middle school as well as adult and elementary classes. The teacher was housed in an apartment across the ball fields from the middle school, and later teachers also had use of a car. Naraha also flew the teachers there, and then home for Christmas and summer breaks. Twice, Naraha students and town leaders came to Euclid to visit, and the students stayed with Euclidian families. They would demonstrate their native dances and songs for anyone interested in seeing them. Everyone really enjoyed these times. Naraha also sponsored a visit by former Mayor Paul Oyaski and former Superintendent, Dr. Kurt Stanic.
Naraha has now been evacuated. Not all the buildings were destroyed, but many homes were lost. It is unknown at this time if there were any deaths, although we know that lives were lost in the prefecture (state) of Fukushima, where Naraha is located. Communications are sketchy at best with the government of Naraha at this time. The citizens there are hopeful that they may someday return to their town, although that hope diminishes with each report of radiation from the nuclear power plants. These are the same plants that gave Naraha the tax money they used to establish the sister-city teacher exchange program.
In an effort to help the citizens of Naraha either re-establish their lives in their area, or to relocate to another prefecture in Japan, Councilman Greg Van Ho of Euclid has established a benefit fund at Fifth Third Bank. “My wife, Kay, and I were lucky to have visited Naraha in 2002 while our daughter Tara taught there for two years. We spoke but a few words of Japanese, and the Japanese adults spoke little English, but we managed to communicate with gestures and smiles. These are beautiful people. My heart goes out to all of Japan, but especially to Naraha,” said Van Ho. It is hoped that through private and corporate donations money will be raised that will go directly to the citizens of Naraha to help them rebuild their lives. “Many times we donate money to organizations, which is very worthwhile, but we may not know or have a connection to the people who receive the aid. This time, many Euclidians have met the people who will be directly impacted by our donations,” stated Kay Van Ho, Vice President of the Euclid School Board. Donations can be made at any Fifth Third Bank in northeast Ohio to “Naraha Needs”. “We are thankful for the positive response we have received so far,” Van Ho said.
For further information, contact Greg Van Ho at (216) 374-1396 or Kay Van Ho at (216) 288-8400.