By Michael Wunder, News Editor
When Josh Campbell saw the devastation in the aftermath of the 8.9 magnitude earthquake and the subsequent tsunami that hit Japan in March, he felt a instinctive need to reach out to the shattered nation.
Campbell, a senior international studies major at UNO, studied abroad from 2008 to 2009 in Shizuoka, Japan, a sister city to Omaha. Although the part of Japan he called home was not affected by the disaster, the country still held a special place in his heart.
“Japan was my home and my friends there were my family,” Campbell said. “While the community I was a part of there is safe, I felt I needed to do something for those in need in a place very close to my heart.”
Knowing he lacked the means to go help abroad, he focused on a way to help from home.
“I wanted to get on a plane and go over and help, but I knew that wouldn’t do much good,” he said. “So instead I concentrated on what I could do here.”
Campbell jumped into action at UNO and organized a bake-sale. Work on the event began March 12 with the sale taking place the following Tuesday and Wednesday. “I had to restart the UNO Friends of Japan, gather volunteers, procure reservations and bake sale permissions and manage to actually have a bake sale,” Campbell said. “Needless to say, there was a lot to do.”
Though he was buried in homework, studies and other worries that plague students, Campbell was single-minded on organizing the sale, he said.
“The thoughts of those who had lost their homes, loved ones and were in such desperate need were what was on my mind,” he said.
Many other students felt a sense of purpose as well. Campbell found more participants than he could count who were willing to offer their help.
“We easily had more than 30 or 40 volunteers, both helping with the tables, preparing baked goods and other items and helping us advertise,” he said. “There was the support received from International Studies and Programs and the UNO Reservations Office and teachers and students who spread the word in their classes.”
The two-day bake sale raised $3,541.05. The money was given to the American Red Cross and earmarked for the Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster. The American Red Cross then sent the money directly to the Japanese Red Cross.
Campbell never thought his efforts would produce such a high return.
“I knew there would be a lot of folks interested in volunteering, but I never thought we could raise this much money this way,” he said. “Bake sales are lucky if they raise $100, much less $3,000. It was very moving to see how much support there was here at UNO for the victims of this disaster.”
Campbell and Friends of Japan are also organizing an event tentatively planned for May 7 at a new downtown venue called The Diamond. There are plans to have an art show and acoustic performances during the day, a fashion show in the evening and a dance party that night. All proceeds will go toward the rebuilding and recovery effort in Japan.
Campbell, still reeling from the overwhelming support, is grateful to the UNO community.
“To everyone that volunteered, helped prepare, spread the word, bought something, donated or helped in any other way, thank you,” he said. “Most of the volunteers were Japanese international students or people like myself who had lived in Japan. It helped remind all of us that in the face of such tragedy, we are not alone and humanity knows no borders.”