Kelowna artists and students raise funds for Japan

Efforts to help Japan are in high gear with everyone from artists to students pitching in to help.

  • Mar. 22, 2011 8:00 p.m.

In the wake of the Japanese tsunami, artist Carrie Harper is hoping for a giant wave of generosity.

Last Thursday, the Glenmore-based artist spawned an international movement with her Facebook auction group “Artists for Japan.”

“Artists often feel like we don’t have a lot of resources to offer to charities and stuff like that; usually because we’re not the most financially well off community,” said Harper. “So I thought, I’ll just start a group on Facebook.”

Inspired by thoughts of her friend and colleague Tomoe Afseth who immigrated from Japan nine years ago and now sells jewelry at the farmer’s market, Harper set up the page.

In just under a week, she brought 650 people onto the group site and managed to collect a stack of art for auction worthy of several months’ work.

From the Rod Charlesworth painting to Afseth’s popular hand-crafted earrings, the art offered up thanks to Harper’s idea should bring in thousands of dollars in donations for Red Cross organizations around the world.

The artists who volunteer their work collect the money and handle the shipping themselves, making the donation in their home country to the Red Cross; although the final auction will be held live in Kelowna this Saturday from the Fabulous Finds artisans’ show at Summerhill Winery.

For Afseth, the effort is both touching and somewhat overwhelming.

Manning a Red Cross donation booth at Superstore this week, she said she was stunned when one man came up and dropped a $100 bill in the kitty without even saying a word and noted many, many people donated $10 and $20 without hesitation.

“I don’t know if we can do that. If Canada has an earthquake, I don’t know if this would happen in Japan,” she said.

Afseth said the money will definitely go to good use as it will take years and years to rebuild the areas affected—if it ever happens.

The people affected are largely elderly. They do not possess the power, influence or money needed to rebuild, with their children and grandchildren having left the village for work in the cities.

Harper is by no means the only one to recognize the need.

In addition to the Red Cross collecting donations, a relief market has been set up.

International Gateway Kelowna, an English as a second language school with students from Japan, is hosting the market in hopes of spawning similar results as the Artists for Japan Facebook group.

Located upstairs at the Town Centre Mall at 565 Bernard Avenue, the school is accepting donations for the market from now until Mar. 28. The market itself will be held Saturday, Apr. 2 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.. For information contact (250) 868-4827.

At Okanagan College, students have designed their own T-shirts with logos reading “Hope for Japan.” At $10 a shirt, the campaign has already raised $5000 for the Red Cross.

The students will be at the Rutland Senior Centre at noon on Wednesday, Mar. 23,; the Japanese Canadian Association in Vernon on Saturday, Mar. 26; and at Evangel Church in Kelowna at 10 a.m. on Sunday, Mar. 27.

The event at Evangel Church will feature traditional taiko drummers as well as other cultural performances.

Hope for Japan T-shirts are also available in Kelowna at the International Education office from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., Monday through Friday and at the Vernon and Salmon Arm campuses.

A group photo for those who purchased shirts is to be staged Thursday, Mar. 24 at 12:30 p.m.

At UBC, students are following a very popular fundraising model making the rounds in other cities with a 1,000 paper crane campaign.

At $1 per sheet of paper, the cranes should raise significant funds.

On Thursday, Mar. 31, the students will hold a Festival of a Thousand Cranes, with food and cultural presentations from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the campus courtyard. It’s a chance to meet students from Japan, learn more about Japan’s people and their country, and to contribute to the disaster relief effort.


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