A trip to present money to schoolchildren in Japan has left a lasting impression on Ladysmith resident Ron Dale.
In early April, Dale, who is chairperson of the local Japan Relief Committee, travelled to Natori, a town that was very hard hit by last year’s earthquake and tsunami. He saw the devastation caused by the tsunami, but he also saw how the Japanese people are cleaning up and rebuilding, and how grateful they are for help from a small town on Vancouver Island.
Dale presented $4,100 raised by Ladysmith residents to schoolchildren in Natori and acted as an unofficial ambassador for Ladysmith during his trip.
The money presented by Dale was raised last year during a fundraising event held at Ladysmith Secondary School. Originally, Dale intended the money to go toward building a playground at an elementary school in Natori, which is in the Sendai region, one of the areas hit the hardest by the earthquake and tsunami last March, but while in Japan, he found out that what the school really needs is basic equipment and supplies to improve education.
Dale will be making a presentation about his trip to Japan this Saturday [June 16] at 2:30 p.m. at First United Church in Ladysmith.
“The purpose is to complete the project by reporting out to people who donated so generously and give them an idea how wonderful an adventure it was for me,” said Dale. “I really think Ladysmith will be a name [the Japanese] will not forget.”
During Saturday’s presentation, Dale will describe his journey, show a video of the school assembly where he presented the donation from Ladysmith and show photographs from the area.
Dale says the destruction he saw was “brutal,” but he was amazed by the Japanese people’s resilience.
“The job they are doing to put it back together is amazing,” he said. “You are just stunned by the magnitude of what happened. They’re remarkable people and a remarkable culture.”
The school Dale donated the money to was not damaged in the earthquake and tsunami.
“We thought we’d dedicate the money to a new playground, but they said there are so many needs that money is not being spent on education,” said Dale. “Their library is not in good shape, and they need gym equipment. The nice thing is, it was a $4,100 donation in total, and every penny went to that school. There were no expenses, thanks to the Ladysmith and District Credit Union, largely.”
Dale took over about 20 pounds of gifts, flags and pins from Ladysmith and District Credit Union, the Town of Ladysmith and the school district for the schoolchildren in Japan.
Dale was in Japan from April 2-10, spending three days in Tokyo and visiting Hiroshima before travelling to Natori.
“I felt like royalty — it was such a welcoming experience,” he said. “I can honestly say it was one of the best things I’ve done in my life. It’s something that will remain near and dear to me forever.”