When planning this year’s spring festival for the UF Japanese Club, Andrea Powell figured the event would be relatively similar to previous years.
There would be booths highlighting different aspects of Japanese culture. Club members would perform traditional and modern Japanese dances.
The festival would have the same goal it has year after year: to promote the Japanese way of life.
Then the earthquake hit.
After an 8.9-magnitude quake struck off the coast of northeast Japan, causing mass devastation, the club members re-evaluated the purpose behind the event.
Powell, president of the club, said the focus is now on creating awareness about the situation in Japan.
The event, which will be held on March 26 from noon to 5 p.m. on the Reitz Union Colonnade, has also turned into a fundraiser. While there is no cost for admission, attendees will have the opportunity to donate to disaster relief efforts.
Other activities planned for the event include a traditional tea ceremony and fashion show featuring Japanese clothing.
Lauren Sorondo, public relations chairwoman for the club, said she hopes people who attend the event will be encouraged to learn about different ways they can help the Japanese people.
She and Powell were together when they heard the news about the earthquake.
“It was like my stomach plummeted and twisted into a knot as soon as we saw the tsunami images,” she said.
Sorondo, an English literature major, joined the club her freshman year. She believes it’s important to learn about other cultures in order to create international friendships and foster greater understanding between human beings.
Powell, a Japanese and political science double major, became active in the club after attending the festival last year.
She plans to study abroad in Japan for both the fall and spring semesters next year.
She doesn’t think the earthquake will affect her plans, but it has made her aware that disaster can strike anywhere, at any time.
She became interested in Japanese culture in high school, when she used the country as a theme for a series of art projects. She said she hopes the festival will help students understand and appreciate the differences between Japanese and American culture.