Riverside planning relief effort for Japanese sister city Sendai

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Mike Clarke/AFP/Getty Images

A group of Chinese citizens at the City Hall await transport to leave the tsunami devastated city of Sendai, Miyagi prefecture on March 15, 2011.

Riverside has launched a relief effort for victims of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Riverside’s maintained long and deep ties with the ravaged coastal city of Sendai.

The two municipalities forged their sister city bond 54 years ago – not long after the United States established an organization to build ties between American and international cities.

La Sierra University's director of philanthropy, Jim Erickson, is helping to coordinate Riverside’s disaster relief effort. “There’s an urgency with this, and let me explain that. As devastating as this is, there’s a reality that interest over a period does wane. So we have to reach out now, and what this is truly going to be if it’s going to be successful is a team effort.”

The city is partnering with local nonprofit groups, establishing a relief fund and mapping out a strategy for long-term aid.

Lalit Acharya is Riverside's international relations manager. "This is a conversation that is going to go on. We’ve been joined at the hip for 50-plus years, so I’m reasonably confident that we are going to continue this conversation. As we get to know what the needs are out there I think we’ll be in a better position to respond.”

Acharya has visited Sendai twice – most recently to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the sister city relationship. He’s finally been able to reach some of his counterparts at Sendai city hall.

He still doesn’t know the whereabouts of many other people, including the man who hosted him during his visit. “I lived in the house of this gentleman for three days and I don’t know how he is, I don’t know if his house has been inundated by the waters. It is very distressing because I have developed all these close relationships and they’re like family essentially.”

Riverside’s working on the first phase of its Japan disaster relief response this week.

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