From disaster comes knowledge

Beverly Findlay-Kaneko has used her memories of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan two years ago to start making a change in her new home of Huntington Beach.

Findlay-Kaneko was in Japan when those natural disasters led to three nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant melting down in March 2011. Now she is using her experience to make an impact with students at Dwyer Middle School.

She worked with members of the student council Monday to commemorate those who are affected by the aftermath of the tsunami. The Oilers decided to give up one electronic device for the day in an event called "Unplug for Fukushima."

"We're trying to raise awareness about how they [the citizens of Fukushima] are trying to rebuild," said Sara Chin, a 14-year-old eighth-grade student at Dwyer.

Sara, along with the help of student council members, set up a table in front of the cafeteria with green posters for students to write what device they gave up for the day.

Some students wrote that they gave up their iPod or phone for the day, while one gave up their curling iron.

Students also flocked in droves and signed multiple yellow banners that had notes like "Stay strong and don't give up" and "I hope your city recovers."

These banners will be sent to Japan in hopes of uplifting the community, said Beverly Findlay-Kaneko, who brought the topic up to the school.

Eighth-grader Mira Nagle, 14, gave up her computer, iPod and TV to get the "experience of not using something because I use those things a lot," she said.

"It's really important to get the word out about things because I feel that people forget," Mira said. "I hope [fellow students] realize what people go through and how we're really lucky to live in our country and have the safety and things that we have."

Faculty members also took part in the event, with one teacher taking it to the extreme.

Science teacher Alan Perry vowed to not use his car for the next five years and bike to wherever he needs to go. He added that there will be times where he would absolutely need to use his vehicle, but said his yearly mileage would not surpass 2,000 miles.

"I've got all my doctors close enough to me. I picked the ones that are closest to me," he said. "I had a doctor in Irvine, but after a while I don't love driving there and back. Now I can bike to my doctors."

Perry had Findlay-Kaneko, who is an advocate for conservation and safe energy resources and whose son is in his class, talk to his sixth-grade science classes about the tragedy in Fukushima and credits her for the big turnout Monday afternoon.

"We'd like [the students] to save energy," Perry said. "The best thing we can do is conserve. They have to learn their part, too."

Findlay-Kaneko and the nonprofit she started in 2012, Families for Safe Energy, advocates energy conservation and safe energy solutions.

The Fukushima event hit close to home for her. She and her family lived in Yokohama, Japan, for 20 years and were there when the earthquake occurred.

Located roughly 200 miles south of Fukushima, her family felt the violent shaking of the earthquake, but were far from the nuclear meltdowns.

"We were quite far away in Yokohama, but still, it was the biggest earthquake I've ever experienced," Findlay-Kaneko said.

After the catastrophe, her family moved to Huntington Beach after coming back temporarily for family reasons.

Though their new home was far from the catastrophe, it wasn't far from their minds. Findlay-Kaneko's husband, Yuji Kaneko, worried about tsunamis in Huntington and made sure they lived at a high enough elevation to avoid what happened in Fukushima. It was when he found out how close the San Onofre nuclear plant was to them that their involvement with save energy resources began.

Now Findlay-Kaneko travels around speaking to audiences and schools around California talking about conservation and alternative energy sources.

"I want them to get out of the complacency of 'This is the way I live and I'm comfortable and I don't care' into thinking 'If I make these changes, maybe things will get better,'" she said, adding she wants students to learn how to change their energy lifestyles. "Also, I want to create some compassion for people who have gone through things like this."

Twitter: @acocarpio

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