Tsunami Survivors Thank The Kids at Rosa Parks Elementary

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By Aarti Shahani

Some kindergarteners today sat on the floor, cross-legged, heads bowed, in welcome of 19-year-old Japanese nuclear disaster survivor Ai Kubota, who fled her native Fukushima after the accident almost a year ago.  That was the third and final calamity in a deadly series, an earthquake and tsunami having preceded it. “Even if it was night, the aftershocks didn't stop and I wasn't able to sleep,” Kubota told the children.

Rosa Parks Elementary kids listen to survivor Ai Kubota. (Aarti Shahani/KQED)

As the anniversary of Japan's deadly tsunami approaches, survivors from the Sendai YMCA are touring San Francisco to share their story -- and gratitude. This morning five of them visited different classrooms at Rosa Parks Elementary School, which raised nearly $14,000 in aid for survivors of the disaster.

“I can’t express it by words, but thank you,” Kubota, who speaks limited English, told her class. Money raised by Rosa Parks is paying for her education back home.

The kindergarteners had questions: "Why did so many people die?” And "how did it happen?”


Yuka Inoue chimed in: “It’s a very difficult question, but it’s nature.” A Sensei – or Japanese language teacher – at Rosa Parks, she helped spearhead efforts to collect donations and matching grants. It was a unique experience, Inoue said. “Raising money is not in my culture.”

The Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California helped coordinate the trans-national visit.