Law student starts campaign to expedite Japan donations

March 18, 2011 7:17:22 PM PDT
U.S. donations to the Japanese relief effort are not matching the levels given after the disasters in Haiti and Indonesia. A spokeswoman for the American Red Cross in San Francisco believes it's partly because people feel Japan is more able to care for itself, but there is a local effort underway to get donations to Japan as quickly as possible.

There are a number of efforts going on in the Bay Area such as a telethon in the Japanese Cultural and Community Center in San Francisco. Local mosques are collecting money and third year law student at Hastings is getting some high level political help in his efforts to speed up delivery of donations.

At mosques around the Bay Area, Imams delivered a message of solidarity asking Muslims to donate to the Japanese earthquake relief.

"Because the Japanese community has been a great support with the Muslim community against Islamophobia and so in response to their support for us, we're raising a support for them," said Rabia Mirhadian from the Islamic Cultural Center.

At the American Red Cross office, support for Japan hasn't matched levels seen for Haitian relief. About $64 million was given to the Japanese so far and $2 million from text donations made on cell phones.

Masaya Uchino donated via a text a couple of days ago. A lot of his family and friends are in Japan and he wanted to help.

"I simply just texted a number that the American Red Cross had and then they had a code that said 'donate' or something," said Uchino.

The third year law student made his donation and then went a little further and researched how that money is getting to Japan.

"It turns out there's actually a 30 to 90-day delay in getting the donations actually directly to Japan because the cell phone bill actually needs to get paid first," said Uchino.

That is not what happened when the Red Cross raised money for earthquake relief in Haiti. Back then, the wireless companies agreed to front the money right away.

"We have an ongoing relationship with the mobile companies, the wireless companies, abd they on a regular day-to-day case they do wait until the individuals pay their phone bills for the money to come to the Red Cross," said Red Cross spokeswoman Melanie Finke.

Finke says an exception was made for Haiti because there were so many donations.

"That to me is ridiculous because it's not the volume of donations that's important here, it's the urgency. The money needs to get there now," said Uchino.

Uchino decided to start an online petition. Tens of thousands of people have signed it and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., on Friday petitioned the cellular companies to expedite the donations to Japan, as a direct result of Uchino's petition.

"And this one of those situations where the victims need the money right now and a delay really just doesn't help at all," said Uchino.

CTIA, which is the Wireless Industry Association did not return ABC7's request for reaction to this story and Boxer's office says it hasn't heard anything either, but her press spokesman assured me the mobile telephone companies got the message.


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