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Chula Vista friends send support to Japan Allison K. Sampite | Sat, Mar 19 2011 12:00 PM

The devastating 8.9 earthquake and consequent tsunami that hit Sendai, Japan, March 11 is being regarded as the worst crisis the country has had since World War II.

Locally, the city of Chula Vista is working to support its sister city, Odawara, located on the western side of Japan in Kanagawa.

Since 1981, the city of Chula Vista has maintained a sister city relationship with Odawara.

Through the Friends of Odawara and the International Friendship Commission in Chula Vista, the two cities work to develop a relationship through economic cooperation and cultural interchange and on the basis of mutual friendship.

Cristina Zamora is a teacher from the Chula Vista Elementary School District who left for Odawara more than a year ago to teach elementary and middle school students as a part of the commission.

Chula Vista resident Terry Thomas is the president of Friends of Odawara and after hearing of the natural disaster, contacted Zamora through Facebook. Zamora was not close enough to be in immediate danger.

The sister city program focuses on adolescent, youth and professional exchanges between Chula Vista residents and residents of Odawara. Each year, a committee prepares visits between Chula Vista and Odawara, entertaining visitors and exchange students.

Thomas said the sister city program represents the role models of true valuable friendship.

"It's a core quality of your daily life to share the kinds of values you have," she said. "We find many people becoming better people through the program."

This Saturday, the Japanese Friendship Garden is dedicating the fifth annual Cherry Blossom Festival to the victims in Japan. Before the festival begins, a moment of silence will be observed and a tree will be dedicated to the earthquake victims, established in the garden's expansion site at Balboa Park.

The Japanese consul general, Junichi Ihara, will be in attendance and share remarks about the situation in Japan. A booth will also be available to make direct donations to the American Red Cross to aid relief in Japan.

Donations to help the victims in Japan should be made to the Japan quake and tsunami victims through the following groups:

The Buddhist Temple of San Diego, 2929 Market St., San Diego, CA 92102; email info@btsd.net; (619) 239-0896; www.btsd.net.

A $10 donation also may be made by texting REDCROSS on your cell phone to 90999.

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