As parts of northern Japan were rocked by a massive earthquake and tsunami the morning of March 11th, many people here in the US saw the decimation on TV and asked “What can I do?” Francis Maraj – a 23 year old Tampa resident and graduate of the University of South Florida – saw it as a call to action: “Save Japan Now!” Three days later, he and a handful of friends had built http://www.SaveJapanNow.com and began selling t-shirts to raise money for the Japanese Red Cross Society and other aid groups. Almost two weeks after the disaster, the group has risen thousands of dollars for the relief efforts in Japan thanks to a word-of-mouth Facebook campaign and on-campus sales at USF.
On the morning of March 11th, Francis Maraj – a 23 year old graduate of the University of South Florida who majored in International Studies – was packing for a trip to see his girlfriend, Junko Oki, in Buffalo, New York. As he turned on the television, he was met by the breaking news story of a massive earthquake in Japan. Upon seeing this, he called Junko - a Japanese national – to alert her of the situation and to contact her parents, who live a mere eight kilometers from the coast, in Chiba, Japan. Over the phone, the two watched as the resulting tsunami ripped through city streets, washing away building, cars and (most terrifyingly) people. Six tearful hours later, Junko was able to get through to her sister in Tokyo and learn her parents were safe.
That day, Maraj – who is very active in the Japanese community at USF and has many friends in Japan – started working his phone and social media accounts. Were his friends and their families ok? And, what was this about a nuclear power plant being damaged? Maraj began wondering what he could do to help: traveling to Japan would probably be difficult, and he really didn’t have the medical or engineering skills most needed after such a disaster. That’s when the idea for SaveJapanNow.com popped into his head.
First, he contacted Drew Rosier, a graphic design student who immediately agreed to the project and quickly turned around concepts for a t-shirt. The only direction Maraj gave him: touch the hearts of people everywhere. Maraj then contacted Drew’s brother, Kyle Rosier, who began drafting a website to showcase the t-shirts and to establish a legitimate platform of operations. On March 13th, they launched the website with the new t-shirt design and set out on the arduous task of telling the world what they were trying to do.
As of today, SaveJapanNow.com has risen thousands of dollars in aid through a word-of-mouth campaign on Facebook. The money raised is being sent directly to Japan through the Japanese Red Cross Society, Yahoo! Japan Volunteers and Second Harvest, a charity that gives 10,000 yen of food for every 1000 yen donated. Maraj has also reached out to the Japanese Consulate in Miami about sending money to support those displaced or requiring medical aid due to the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear plant disaster.
For more information, please visit http://www.SaveJapanNow.com.
About Francis Maraj
Francis Maraj, has been closely integrated in the Japanese community of Tampa since a young age. He has volunteered for organizations and events such as the Japan Exchange Teacher Alumni Association, the Association for Teachers of Japanese, and the Tampa Asia Fest. Francis also founded the Tampa chapter of the National Japanese Honor Society at George S. Middleton High School and held the position of Community Outreach Chair for the USF Japanese Club. Graduating with a degree in International Studies and a Certificate of Asian Studies from the University of South Florida, Francis hopes to someday teach English in Japan. The idea for SaveJapanNow.com and its logo (I Ai Japan) were born from his love for Japan, its culture, and its people.
Based in Tampa, FL, SaveJapanNow.com was formed by a group of students, or more importantly friends, who share a love for Japan, its people and its culture. When the 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami occurred on March 11th, 2011, they quickly saw the need to aid recovery efforts and set up a direct-to-Japan donation system. In association with the local Japanese community and the USF Japanese Club, SaveJapanNow.com was created to help in whatever way possible. ALL profits from t-shirt sales or standard donations to SaveJapanNow.com go to the Japanese Red Cross Society and other Japanese aid organizations.