By Noriko, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public AffairsApril 23, 2014
CAMP ZAMA, Japan (April 22, 2014) -- Nineteen volunteers from the Camp Zama community traveled nearly 300 miles to Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture on April 19 to host a Hawaiian party called "luau" for the local residents, who survived the Great East Japan earthquake, here.
Sue Jorgenson, a member of Hui 'O Hawaii, along with other members have planned for this trip since April of last year. A fundraiser, which included preparing and selling Hawaiian foods to the Camp Zama community helped cover the trip's expense. This is the second luau at Ishinomaki hosted by Hui 'O Hawaii.
Jorgenson said as a foreigner, she feels lucky to be here (and) to live in the community, and she feels that foreigners always want the opportunity to give something back to the Japanese community.
"We call it Aloha".
The whole purpose, Jorgenson said, is to share the Aloha in the area that it is really need in.
Nearly 100 local residents from Ishinomaki came out to the luau this year, said Jorgenson.
The Hui 'O Hawaii members provided Hawaiian food and desert during the event, followed by hula dancing. The "Islands of Da Heart" band provided live musical entertainment.
Dean Bengston, a Christian missionary who now live in Ishinomaki, organized and promoted the luau.
Bengston said advertising was "super easy" this year because everyone enjoyed the event last year.
"One of our biggest challenges was to figure out how to keep the crowd down to a manageable number," said Bengston.
Beth van Kan, the president of Zama Community Spouses' Association, who also participated as a volunteer to help serve food during the event said Camp Zama community members are able to reach out further into community through events such as the luau.
"It is one of our biggest purposes, to be able to give back to communities through the funds that we raise, so that includes the outreaches what we (provide) to our Japanese community."
Hideori Ito, a band member of "Islands of Da Heart" said he remembers the audience reactions to the music.
"We tried to play music that we are really passionate about rather than what we think the local resident want to listen to."
Ito said the audience seemed to enjoy the musical entertainment more that way.
Bengston said one of the reasons why the luau is so appreciated is because the event gives people something to look forward to and it helps them get out and socialize with their neighbors.
"A day like last Saturday breaks the daily monotony of dealing with issues, and it's a great stress buster," said Bengston.
Our local residents feel really happy when they realize they are still being remembered and community members continue to reach out said Bengston.
"Aloha continues to support the resiliency in Ishinomaki because rebuilding is a lifetime commitment," said Jorgenson.