The earthquake and tsunami that devastated the nation of Japan last March were unforgettable reminders of the importance of supporting those in need. Springfield College remembers the paper cranes.
The origami cranes represented awareness and collected small donations toward the Japan relief effort. More importantly, the colorful birds and those selling them represented a movement; a movement that has gained significant momentum since.
“We’re All in This Together” is a campaign that was launched by John Rice last year. Rice, from Monroeville, N.J., is a Springfield College senior and head resident assistant at the Living Center who joined forces with a few other students in an attempt to unite his school for the cause in Japan.
“The campaign sort of originated from Japan relief, but then we got deeper with it and now it’s about living a lifestyle of charity and advocating for the philosophy of volunteering,” said Rice.
As Rice and his group folded small birds out of decorative paper in the Richard B. Flynn Campus Union, he came to an unnerving conclusion: support is never as lasting as it needs to be.
“There is a big response immediately after tragedies, and then things start to wane,” said Rice.
Hurricane Katrina caught the world’s attention in 2005 and support poured to New Orleans. In 2010, a catastrophic earthquake shook over three million Haitians, turning heads internationally. Rice says that people respond quickly enough, but their support is often brief.
Fellow volunteer and Springfield College junior Amie Bury feels the same as Rice. Bury has been volunteering since high school and says the extent of support usually falls short.
“I think we do well with donating money and supplies directly after a disaster, but unfortunately, as time passes, we start dwindling away and helping less,” said Bury. “That’s what the Together Campaign is all about: keeping people involved and continuing to help well after disasters have happened.”
Japan relief did unfortunately begin to wind down. As the 2010-2011 school year came to a close, “We’re All in This Together” concluded its inaugural year, and students took off for the summer. Senior year for Rice was rapidly approaching, and his campaign’s help with Japan relief was now completed. Then tragedy came to our doorstep.
An unlikely tornado ripped a path through the heart of Springfield on June 1, 2011. Rice knew that the birthplace of “We’re All in This Together” was now desperately in need of the same charity and volunteering that it advocates. The campaign began the 2011 fall semester with a cause right around the corner.
“We’re getting together a supply drive to help out with the local schools that were already struggling before the tornado,” said Rice.
Many of Springfield’s citizens were in need of support prior to the natural disaster. The tornado kicked people while they were down; Bury says volunteering and support is the way to pick them up.
“The people who were affected by the tornado were people who were already struggling before the tornado. At this point, we want to get them back on their feet and then continue helping them,” said Bury.
Rice hopes to spread the volunteering mindset to other schools in the area, as well as work together with similar organization at Springfield College.
“We are not trying to raise our name above others. We’re our own campaign, but we’re focused on collaborating with other clubs and groups on campus,” said Rice.
Bury says the community around us deserves our attention, and although Springfield College may be its own entity, it is important to see the bigger picture.
“On campus, we don’t see the bad things and the struggles around us, so I think it is really important to recognize these struggles and help,” said Bury. “It makes you feel good to know that you helped someone else, even in a tiny way.”
Rice says that those willing to help need to focus their efforts; it all goes back to the name of the campaign, he says.
“Everyone wants to do something, but if we’re not working together and we’re not on the same page, then our efforts won’t add up to much,” said Rice. “If people can combine their efforts, combine their thoughts and really collaborate, we can make a big impact.”
Rice and other students will be taking part in “Rebuilding Together” on Oct. 1 and 2. Springfield students will rebuild 25 Springfield homes in five days, and Rice says an extra hand is always welcome.
“We’re All in This Together” is going to lose John Rice and other members to graduation this spring. Haiti, Japan, New Orleans and even Springfield’s own nightmare may be an afterthought in a few years time; however, Rice is optimistic.
The campaign will continue as long as its volunteering mindset is passed on, Rice says. It will be up to future students to create their own paper cranes.
Sean Seifert may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org