Vigil honors victims of Japan disasters

BY NINA EARNEST | MARCH 29, 2011 7:20 AM

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Deshaun Thompson’s candlelight flickered as he said a heartfelt prayer.

Around a dozen people held small dripping candles Monday evening as part of a vigil for the victims of the 9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan.

“The way the world is, you never know,” said Jason Dorris, his 5-year-old daughter, Imani, at his side. “It could have been us in some way or form.”

The small group met outside the Afro-American Cultural Center as part of an effort by Omega Psi Phi to raise awareness of disaster victims and collect donations.

And though they were few in number, they were eager to help.

Thompson, the basileus of the fraternity, said he donates to the American Red Cross every year and thought holding an event would be a good opportunity for fundraising.

“It’s about getting a moment of silence and giving back to those in need,” Thompson said.

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Through contributions from coworkers and others, he said, he was able to gather around $135 as well as pillows and blankets for the Red Cross and the Salvation Army.

“Everything helps,” Thompson said. “A dollar can help somebody.”

Each person participated for different reasons. Dorris, 32, a University of Iowa alumnus and Omega Psi Phi graduate, traveled from Waterloo with his daughter to attend the event. Karletta White, 26, has a good friend from South Korea who knew many people in Japan and sent along a special prayer for the evening.

And the four members of Delta Sigma Theta — Omega Psi Phi’s sister organization — said even small organizations can show their concern for the community.

UI senior and sorority member Danielle Means, 22, said doing their best as a smaller group can be a positive influence on other organizations.

“That will create a wave of other movements so people who are part of smaller organizations don’t feel afraid that it wouldn’t have a greater effect,” she said.

There has been considerable regional attention brought to the Japanese earthquake, said Angela Jordan, the chief executive officer of the Red Cross’s Grant Wood Area Chapter.

“Peoples’ generosity always amazes me,” Jordan said, noting that many have donated to the Japanese Relief Fund.

According to the Associated Press, the most recent death toll is more than 10,000 people. Though the Japanese Red Cross society runs nearly 100 hospitals in Japan, the society is not actively looking for external medical assistance.

“We can’t send anyone to volunteer,” Jordan said. “They’re not asking for that kind of help. What people seem to be doing are fundraisers or events in order to send them money.”

And even a vigil, said UI junior and Delta Sigma Theta member Lara Townsley, is a way to show their concern, though they don’t have the resources available to provide larger donations.

“We’re doing everything we can, everything in our power,” the 20-year-old said. “I think that speaks a lot.”

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