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U of S student spearheads Japanese aid efforts

U of S student spearheads Japanese aid efforts

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Satoshi Shibata is putting everything aside to help victims of the Japanese tsunami. The international studies student called an open community meeting on March 13 to figure out what could be done to help in the aftermath of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami.

The group of 30 or so people included several members of the International Student’s Association and Saskatoon’s large Japanese community.

“We have a lot of people in Saskatoon still trying to find family and friends,” said Shibata.

He came to Saskatoon for high school, but his parents and sister still live near Tokyo.

“Even when I talk to my parents on Skype, they are still feeling the aftermath,” Shibata said. “The disaster isn’t over yet. It’s still ongoing.”

Shibata’s connections span the whole country, adding to his sense of responsibility. On a bike trip across Japan, he got to know people in all kinds of communities.

“I’ve got connections in every prefecture,” he said. “I was getting help all along the way, and this is maybe a way to give back.”

This group, still so new that it has no formal name, is meant to provide the community with an outlet to help. Shibata divided the group into three task forces: communication, events and an external group.

The communications team is devoted to updating information on the situation in Japan, contacting the Canadian embassy and locating phone numbers or ways to find missing people.

The events coordination group is already hard at work organizing public and educational fundraisers.

The external group will focus on government communications and on contacting local businesses to garner a higher profile and to gather donations.

Shibata signed a partnership agreement with the Red Cross on March 15.

“It is important students know exactly where their donations are going,” Shibata said at the meeting.

Their first fundraiser is a documentary night at 4:30 p.m. March 18 in the International Students Study Abroad Centre, thanks in part to the African Students’ Association donating their reserved time with the space — donations will gladly be accepted.

The group is also hosting a cultural event April 2 at Louis’. The University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union has agreed to waive the costs of hosting, so all proceeds will go to the Red Cross’s disaster relief efforts.

“We don’t need to be limited as residents of Saskatoon. Our efforts can create more bond in the community and internationally,” said Shibata.

“Roads are blocked, people still need to find their families,” he added, saying that as an import-dependent nation, Japan will have a particular need for food and water in the aftermath.

In the interim, the Crisis Relief Students Association on campus will be hosting bake sales on Wednesdays to fundraise for both Libyan and Japanese aid. The sales will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m every week in the Arts Tunnel.

Faizah Jamil, the founder and president of the CRSA, says their efforts to fundraise will be similar to their fundraising for Pakistan last semester, which yielded over $5,000 in donations.

“Our efforts for Pakistan included bakes sales, a dinner and entertainment night, booths in malls and stores”¦ as well as promoted a lot of awareness as to what is happening there with the floods,” she said, adding that the group planned to do as much if not more for the crisis at hand.

image: Pete Yee/The Sheaf

This post originally appeard in The Sheaf - The University of Saskatchewan Newspaper Since 1912.

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