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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A Little Charity Goes A Long Way - To Japan

A while back, I wrote about my friend Vinnie who was taken aback by the damage done to Japan by the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011.

Vinnie being a good guy - he's an American who has never been to Japan but dreams of going there one day soon - figured that while the Japanese government helps get the people back on their feet (he was wrong there, as that is still going on some two years later with many families still displaced), he do his small part to help out with their educational needs.

Basically, to make a long story short - and one I think Vinnie needs to tell here in this space - he bought a whole lot of NEW English language books for students... for kindergarten, elementary and junior high kids, who are being deprived of books to learn English from.

New books because they deserve new books, was what he told me. I agree.

He spent his own money money, people... and through my blog, was gladly accepting donations from other like-minded people to purchase books via that he would pack himself and pay for himself to ship to a few devastated areas - in particular the the Noda Village Public Library in Iwate-ken, which was particularly hard hit by the disaster.

Despite no one taking him up on his kind offer, Vinnie did it all himself anyway. I should point out that Vinnie is not a rich person - except in the things that count (like honesty and compassion), and if you ask me, that makes him pretty damn rich.

That photo above, and the photo immediately below - those are some of the books received by the library.

These books are courtesy of Vinnie. Fricking awesome!

Here's a few lines that Vinnie wrote to me last month:

After I had sent all those books to Ishinomaki, I worked with a Iwate-ken CIR - a lovely woman named Amanda from New Jersey who is in her 5th year on the JET Programme. (Her blog is I sent her two boxes of books.

Vinnie, for good measure then sent along a link to an article about the Noda public library:

I don't usually write out Internet addresses, preferring you have to come back to my blog to access them so as to drive up the visitor rate, but visitor rate be damned...

Do yourself a favor and see Amanda's blog... and then go and see the Noda article.

And... for good measure... let me present a photo here:

Noda Public Library after March 11, 2011. What a mess...
For the record... let me redirect you to Vinnie, who wrote to me back on March 13 (actually, excluding the past couple of weeks, he and I were writing steadily to each other like little school girls some 10 -15 times a day... I almost felt like I should buy him some Pez or something. But... we both had other work to do, so I guess the man-crush wore off a bit.)...

Seriously, though... I just want to say that if you are more liquid in cash than myself, and can afford the time and effort, you going that extra mile like Vinnie has will surely make many kids in Japan very happy.

Anyhow, here's what Vinnie wrote to me in that March 13 e-mail...

"It turned out I had three large cartons of books waiting for me at the UPS center. I unpacked them and put them on the table. There are still more coming so I am not going to pack them up yet. I took some photos so you can see more of what I am getting them. The little boxes at the back of the table each contain 15 to 25 illustrated mini-books that focus on low level pronunciation or grammar. There are other boxed sets you can see in the photos such as Dr. Seuss and Winnie the Pooh."

What's with the UPS boxes? He ordered all the new books on-line from, and that was how they were delivered. I only explain that here, because it confused me for a moment - and I know the whole story. 

Here's what Vinnie wrote back to me after I published this blog entry... to clarify a few things:

The cartons from Amazon weighed over 30 lbs. each so that was why they were delivered via UPS rather than the usual government postal system. All those books in the lower photos were sent to the Ishinomaki BOE in Miyagi-ken (over 300 lbs. of books in the last shipments, 620 lbs total over the past 9 month). These are being distributed among 7 schools. 1 is a kindergarten. 3 are elementary schools and 3 are jr. highs. That's why there are three copies of most books. I thought if they only had to decide whether the level was appropriate for elementary schools versus jr. high schools then they could send one copy of each book to the right level. Otherwise I was afraid they would have to dither over which school would get which book. I wanted to make the process as easy as possible for them.
The Noda Village Public Library (Iwate-ken) was a separate project of just two boxes of books
I asked Amanda to check on a couple other public libraries in her prefecture that were badly damaged to see if they have recovered enough to take in new books, but no word yet.

Anyhow... this is still just a small sample of what the kids in Japan are now enjoying thanks to the heroic efforts of my friend Vinnie, whom I am sad to say I have never met, but am proud to have had a chance to get to know.

Thank you for sharing. I appreciate your help with this blog et al.

Andrew Joseph
PS: Nice flooring in your place, Vinnie.

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