Sister City Students Turn Grief into Giving for Otsuchi, Japan

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Fort Bragg, California has Raised $75,000 Towards their Goal of $100,000 to Aid in the Recovery of their Sister City Otsuchi, Japan.

In Fort Bragg, California students are busy folding 1,000 origami cranes as part of a citywide fundraising effort to help their sister city Otsuchi, Japan. Otsuchi was reduced to rubble by the March 11th 9.0 quake, subsequent tsunami and fires that burned unchecked for days.

The crane is auspicious in Japanese culture. Legend says that anyone who folds one thousand paper cranes will have their heart’s desire come true. The students will be sending the cranes along with their wish for the healing of Otsuchi and the families that survived.

Fort Bragg has raised $75,000 towards their goal of $100,000 to aid in Otsuchi’s recovery. Local students have contributed to this effort through school fundraising drives and other projects. For a recent downtown event, students created displays of their Otsuchi photos and treasures. Several shops and art galleries donated a portion of the night's proceeds to the Otsuchi Recovery Fund.

“I am again blown away by what the students in our community have raised for the Otsuchi Recovery Fund,” said Fort Bragg Mayor Dave Turner. “From $3,000 at Fort Bragg High to $500 by the Point Arena Elementary School (one paper hand at a time), it is so reflective of the dedication and compassion of our students. Our brothers and sisters in Otsuchi will be uplifted by their efforts.”

Students at Fort Bragg Middle School have raised over $2,000 by waging a penny war. In a penny war, the grade levels compete to win a fundraising competition. Each grade has a bucket for collecting coins or dollar bills. The value of any pennies collected by a grade count positively toward that group's point total, while the value of other coins or dollar bills are subtracted. So, in a competition between 6th, 7th and 8th graders, a student who wants 6th grade to win will place pennies into the 6th grade bucket and nickels, dimes, quarters, or dollar bills into the 7th or 8th grade bucket.

In spite of a depressed economy, the entire community has come together to raise funds to help the families in Otsuchi who have lost their homes, businesses and families. The two cities share many demographic and geographic similarities; they are both coastal towns in remote areas. Both cities depend heavily on the fishing industry.

2011 marks the 10th anniversary of the Cultural Exchange between Fort Bragg and Otsuchi. Every other year a group of Otsuchi students come to Fort Bragg and later in the year the Fort Bragg students travel to Otsuchi. The students stay in their host family's homes, attend school in the host town and participate in cultural activities. Despite the language barrier, deep and lasting bonds are formed by the experience.

“Our efforts have already and will continue to raise the spirits of our friends in Otsuchi.” said City Council member Doug Hammerstrom. Hammerstrom is also the Fundraising Chair for the exchange program.

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