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SYLMAR : College Joins Efforts to Send Money to Kobe

Mutsuni Izutsu and Sean Sugihara absorbed each broadcast image of the devastation of Kobe last week with gut-wrenching dismay.

The two Mission College exchange students from Japan wanted to help in the aftermath of the destructive Jan. 17 earthquake in their homeland, but did not know how.

During a meeting with other exchange students at the college Tuesday, Izutsu and Sugihara found they were not alone in their desire to contribute.

“We had a discussion about what kinds of things we could do to help,” said Sugihara, 22, a computer science student from Tottori, a city near Hiroshima. “We found out they need money more than anything.”

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With the administration’s support, the Sylmar community college’s foreign student body--which includes eight Japanese students--formed a relief committee and established a fund to benefit the hundreds of thousands of people left homeless and destitute by the most destructive earthquake to strike Japan since the 1923 Tokyo quake.

Izutsu, 20, a film student from Osaka, is chairwoman of the relief committee. Sugihara is vice chairman.

With Sugihara translating, Izutsu said that living in the United States has given her a unique opportunity to get citizens of different nations involved in contributing to the relief effort in her homeland.

The Kobe quake left more than 5,000 dead. More than 74,000 buildings were destroyed or damaged beyond use.

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“The first time I saw pictures (after the quake) in the newspaper, it was like an atomic bomb,” said Sugihara, who returned from a trip to Osaka two weeks ago.

“A lot of people need a lot of help,” he said, noting that he lived in Sherman Oaks a year ago when the Northridge quake struck.

Laurence Estaville, adviser to the college’s 39 foreign exchange students, is supervising the relief effort. “I’ve had a constant stream of students and people from the community coming into my office asking me how they can help. This is a place to start.”

The fund opened Wednesday with $100 donated by Mission College faculty, students and community members. People who wish to contribute can make checks payable to the Mission College Kobe Relief Fund. Donations can be mailed or delivered to the college’s business office, 13356 Eldridge Ave., Sylmar 91342.

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