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4-H students linked to massive Japanese earthquake, tsunami PDF Print E-mail
Written by Chris Lee   

The giant magnitude 8.9 earthquake that shook Japan and eventually triggered a tsunami has been in the news since the first rumble was felt Friday, March 11.

Many organizations and individuals throughout the world are donating in any way they can think of while others are left making sure friends and family are OK after the horrific incident.

While the devastation and death count remain unknown, local families in Holyoke have been busy trying to reach Japanese students that were in Holyoke just under a year ago.

Three Japanese students spent three weeks in Holyoke last summer with host families. They were housed with members of the Challengers 4-H Club.



Holyoke’s three Japanese exchange students are pictured with members of Challengers 4-H Club during
last summer’s Phillips County Fair. 4-H members and exchange students are pictured from left, front row,
Saki Tanabe, Jessica Owens,  Morganne Kumm, Rintaro Syoda, Tristan Sullivan and Drew Stewart; second
row, Anna Jelden and Brenna Sullivan; and back row, Molly Brandt, Megan Colglazier, Ella Stewart, Takuya
Kato and Luke Stewart.         —Enterprise file photo


Around 40 exchange students were placed in Colorado through CSU Extension and the 4-H program. Some are participants in LABO, the Japanese version of 4-H, while others are part of LEX/Hippo Family Club and the Institute for Language Experience, Experiment and Exchange.

Linda Jelden and family hosted Saki Tanabe last summer. When news of the earthquake broke, Jelden immediately thought not only of Saki, but of her own family members as well.

Immediate phone calls weren’t answered but eventually Jelden managed to reach people by e-mail and Facebook messages.

Through online conversations, Jelden found out Saki and her family, who live in Tokyo, were all right but they were very worried about the radiation from the nuclear power plants.

Jelden also has family living in Japan, but they live far from where the earthquake struck, and she had a pretty good idea before she even contacted them that they were safe. She noted they didn’t even feel tremors from the quake.

The Jelden family last visited Japan during Christmas 2009 and hopes to go back in the future.

Troy and Mardi Stewart have heard Takuya Kato, who stayed with them last summer, is all right. Mardi has e-mailed Takuya’s mom who said the devastation in Japan looks like it came straight out of a movie.

Jeff and Olga Sullivan were host to Rintaro Syoda. Olga said they haven’t been in contact with Rintaro.

As of Friday, March 25, over 10,000 people were confirmed dead by Japan’s National Police Agency, while 17,541 were still missing.

Leaking nuclear reactors are becoming the main topic of conversation as crews work to cool them off. Japan is home to over 50 nuclear power plants.

The Japanese exchange program is scheduled to continue this year, according to CSU State Coordinator of 4-H International Programs Courtney Loflin. There is still some uncertainty if the outbound exchange will happen, but CSU is certain Japanese students will be visiting the U.S. in July.

Anyone interested in serving as a host family may contact the CSU Extension office at 854-3616.