Trail and Teck send relief to sister city

While Sagamihara not impacted by earthquake, Japanese city aiding its struggling neighbours.

Looking out for its sister city, Trail has joined forces with Teck to offer $16,000 in support to those impacted by the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan.

To represent one dollar for each of the approximate 8,000 residents of Trail, the city has donated $8,000 to Sagamihara of Kanagawa Prefecture, with Trail Operations matching these funds.

“We are very concerned for our many Japanese friends,” said Trail Mayor Dieter Bogs in a news release. “We are hopeful our contribution will help those in need and we trust city leaders in Sagamihara will know best where to apply these resources for the greatest benefit.”

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the twinning relationship between Trail and the Japanese city. The bond was originally established in 1991 with the neighbouring community of Tsukui, which is now a suburb of Sagamihara.

“The twinning relationship remains very strong and we know that the strength and resilience of the people there will see them through this disaster,” said Bogs.

Trail Operations is pleased to partner with the city in contributing to the disaster relief, said general manager Mike Martin.

“I have had the opportunity to meet many of the dignitaries from our sister city Sagamihara during previous visits, and I know that the thoughts of all Teck Trail Operations employees are with them and the people of Japan during this difficult time,” he said.

Described as a friendship that promotes cultural diversity and economic opportunities, the sister cities participate in resident exchanges where the host city looks after the visitors with a place to sleep, meals and recreational activities.

Well over 500 people Greater Trail or those from the Kootenay region have visited Sagamihara, said Bogs.

“Our Japanese partners accept you as their friend and really, really treat you as a family member,” he said.

Though the earthquake did not impact the Japanese city about 40 kilometres south of Tokyo, its residents are providing relief to surrounding communities that were devastated.

A trip for students aged 13 and up scheduled for October has been cancelled along with a city officials exchange that was to take place in May, and the funding budgeted this year for these two trips has reverted to the donation.

“We felt . . . knowing the culture in Japan, if we would have insisted they would have gladly hosted us. But we feel they need all the resources they have right now,” said co-coordinator Diana Gonzalez, who has participated in the student exchange three times.

“Seeing students’ reactions when they’re there – in terms of a learning experience – I think the trip really opens their horizons,” she said.

A group made up of 20 teens and six adults met March 14 and decided it was best to cancel the trip.

The group is now coming up with a fundraising initiative to help Sagamihara, or at least provide funds that the sister city can channel to its surrounding areas in need.

“Sagamihara has a friendship city relationship with Ofunato City in Iwate Prefecture,” explained the city’s interpretor Chieko Bond, who acts as communication liaison between officials in both cities. “Sagamihara is trying to find out the way donations can reach where they’re needed most effectively.”

Police in Japan have confirmed nearly 3,400 deaths in Iwate, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Aomori and Chiba provinces, as well as seven dead in Tokyo. In one of the hardest-hit prefectures, Miyagi, estimates are that deaths will top 15,000.

— With files from CP