Community

Across the miles, the reach of friends from Whidbey to Japan

South Whidbey High School student Colin Sulgrove donated this photo for a raffle to help raise money for the survivors of Japan’s earthquake. It was taken at Sanzenin Temple in Kyoto, Japan.  Sulgrove took the photo while on a visit to Japan.  “The subjects are unknown, and I kind of just stumbled upon them when walking through the beautiful gardens there,” Sulgrove said. - Colin Sulgrove photo
South Whidbey High School student Colin Sulgrove donated this photo for a raffle to help raise money for the survivors of Japan’s earthquake. It was taken at Sanzenin Temple in Kyoto, Japan. Sulgrove took the photo while on a visit to Japan. “The subjects are unknown, and I kind of just stumbled upon them when walking through the beautiful gardens there,” Sulgrove said.
— image credit: Colin Sulgrove photo

Friends are friends, no matter how many thousands of miles lie between.

So after Japan was struck by a devastating tsunami and earthquake on March 11, the Friendship Force of Whidbey Island kicked in to high gear to help their faraway friends.

Members of the Friendship Force of Whidbey Island will host a fundraiser at the Basil Café in the Bayview Cash Store from noon to 7:30 p.m. Sunday, May 15 to benefit those in Japan still recovering from the disaster.

Chef and owner Chung Tran has volunteered to host five seatings at the restaurant throughout the day, along with his brother, Johnny Tran, who owns the Sushi Connection, for the benefit. The Trans have helped with several Friendship Force fundraising projects, including raising money to help build a library in Vietnam and another that sent aid to Haiti.

Whidbey Island Friendship Force president Shirley Hauck said that the force traditionally offers a hand of service every year in March and, last year, it was equally as eager to help friends in Haiti.

“As a worldwide organization, we try to do more than just be hosts and guests,” Hauck said.

“We want to extend the hand of friendship across the barriers that create trouble for international relations and focus on peace.”

The Japan fundraiser will help to do just that. The island group has had several exchanges with friends in Japan, and after news of the disaster shook the world, the friends took immediate action to find out what was happening there.

“Most of our Japanese friends were on the opposite side of the island, so they were safe,” Hauck said, “but we used our contacts to find out how we should go about getting money to the proper places.”

After considerable research, Friendship Force of Whidbey Island chose Peace Winds America, a legal nonprofit organization based in Seattle that, with its sister organization, Peace Winds Japan, strengthens disaster preparedness and response in countries near the western Pacific Ocean. There are currently many organizations associated with Japan that are using Peace Winds America as a resource for sending aid to Japan.

“Their focus is on reducing the impact of natural disasters in the area,” Hauck said.

Relief operations are currently underway in Miyagi and Iwate Prefecture in the northeastern part of Japan, including helping homeless families get started in new homes and providing such necessities as kitchen supplies, bedding, clothing, sanitary items, first-aid kits and other supplies.

It’s not surprising that the Friendship Force of Whidbey Island, which was started in 1991, felt compelled to spring into action. Hauck said that making friends in various parts of the world has had a strong effect on her.

“This is my third year,” she said, noting exchanges she experienced in Costa Rica and several in Canada.

“When you’re on an exchange, you get a wonderful feeling of building these friendships for life. Two of our hosts had met through Friendship Force from two different continents and were even married.”

The exchanges also have opened her eyes more to new perspectives in the world.

“We were just in Canada during the elections and learned a great deal about the polling process up there, which is very different from ours,” Hauck said.

“It’s like being a non-professional anthropologist in a way, and makes you appreciate your home more because you see it through your guests’ eyes. You appreciate it more,” she added.

That appreciation extends to the friends already made in Japan and welcoming the Whidbey community to a table set out in their honor.

The benefit dinner includes tempura, chicken cashew, udon miso soup, teriyaki chicken, vegetable yakisoba, steamed rice and a dessert, in addition to a sushi buffet catered by Johnny Tran.

The five seatings at the Basil Café are at noon, 1, 2:30, 4:30 and 6 p.m. The cost for the dinner is $25 per person, not including beverages.

Entertainment will be provided during dinner, as well as a raffle for several prizes, including a photograph taken in Japan by South Whidbey High School senior Colin Sulgrove, whose photography is currently on display at MUSEO gallery in downtown Langley.

Checks can be made out to the Friendship Force of Whidbey Island, and will go to Peace Winds America. The $25 price includes $10 to cover the cost of the food and a $15 tax-deductible donation.

Seating is limited, so reservations are highly recommended. Preferred seating times can be arranged by calling Chris Williams at 321-4027, or e-mail cwilliam@whidbey.com.

 

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