JAPAN QUAKE REMEMBERED: Taiwan charities call for continued support

Taipei, March 10 (CNA) Charities in Taiwan called on the public to continue to support victims of Japan's March 11 earthquake and tsunami, prior to the second anniversary of the disaster. As of Feb. 28, the Taiwan public has donated NT$2.57 billion (US$86.81 million) to Taiwan's Red Cross Society to assist the victims, of which NT$2.49 billion have been sent to the Japanese Red Cross Society for emergency relief and post-disaster reconstruction projects, charity officials recently said. The remainder of the money will be used to carry out a three-year psychological support program, rebuild a nursery school in the disaster area and support the overall recovery plan of the Japanese Red Cross Society, they said. Following the earthquake and tsunami, Taiwan donated some US$260.64 million in cash to Japanese quake victims, 90 percent of which came from private donors. This was the highest amount from any country. The charity said its donations are being used to build public housing units, nursery schools, education centers, a public hospital, a resident welfare center, and a health care center in northeastern Japan's Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures -- the three areas hardest hit by the disaster. Construction of public housing units in Miyagi and Iwate are expected to be completed by 2015, while the other projects will be completed by the end of this year, officials said, adding that the reconstruction projects will benefit some 75,500 people. The Red Cross said it hopes to complete the projects soon, so those who lost their homes could continue rebuilding their lives. On March 21, the Taiwan charity said it would also bring together Taiwanese and Japanese musicians to hold a concert in Iwate to show the support of Taiwan for the earthquake victims. "We hope all the victims of March 11 can "ganbare" (Japanese for "hang in there"). We send Japan our blessings," Wang Ching-feng, president of the charity, told CNA Sunday. She also urged the Taiwanese public to continue their care and to visit the disaster areas in Japan when they have a chance, to encourage the victims and to learn more about the reconstruction work. Official figures compiled following the March 11 disaster listed 15,881 people dead, 2,668 missing and over 1.1 million houses destroyed or damaged. Meanwhile, World Vision Taiwan President Tu Ming-han said his charity cooperated with World Vision Japan in the immediate aftermath of the disaster to rebuild the fishing industry and infrastructures in the disaster areas, as well as to offer scholarships and school lunches for students from affected families. He called on the Taiwanese public to continue their support for the victims, especially the children, to help them recover from their loss. World Vision International has raised some US$53.5 million in donations for the March 11 earthquake relief, with US$16 million coming from Taiwan, the Christian charity said, adding that its relief and recovery programs have reached an estimated 297,000 people. The Taiwan Fund for Children and Families, meanwhile, said it has raised over NT$50 million to rebuild schools in Japan and support children's emergency relief and counseling programs. Huang Shu-ling, director of the secretariat of the charity, said extending assistance is part of a "cycle of love" as ChildFund Japan and other Japanese charity groups also extended a generous hand to Taiwan following the devastating earthquake in Taiwan on Sept 21, 1999. Huang told CNA that during a visit to Japan's disaster areas, she was impressed by the Japanese people's will and their lack of self-pity. "I was very touched. I believe they will rise up again," she said. She said her charity will continue to cooperate with its Japanese counterpart in overseeing the completion of the reconstruction projects. (By Christie Chen)