Setsuko Gormley

Kyle Galdeira
Wednesday - June 08, 2011
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Kanoelani Elementary students proudly showcase their donations. Photo courtesy Setsuko Gormley

In the wake of the tragedy in Japan caused by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, students and faculty at Kanoelani Elementary School in Waipahu rallied together with the goal of sending love and aloha from Hawaii to those suffering on the other side of the Pacific.

Kanoelani’s Japanese language teacher Setsuko Gormley headed the project with the goal of “sending (the Japanese students) Hawaii power, and to help put a smile on their face so they know they are loved.” Gormley, who is originally from Tokyo and has been teaching Japanese in Hawaii for 25 years - 14 at Kanoelani - received the support of students and teachers, as well as principal Sandy Ahu and vice principal Walleen Hirayama, both of whom have a great interest in Japanese culture.

After the school’s first-grade teachers suggested to Gormley that the school do something to aid Japan, the teacher orchestrated the creation of 1,508 greeting cards from the school’s 754 students in kindergarten to sixth grade. Students in third through sixth grades also created 2,000 paper cranes, while fourth-graders took time each day to go around the campus to collect donations to benefit the relief effort. Altogether, the students raised $1,136.38 for their counterparts in Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate prefectures, but according to Gormley, the messages of love and support contained in the cards along with personal introductions from the students far exceeded the importance of monetary contributions.

“Inside the cards, the students introduced themselves in Japanese, and they wrote what they felt from the heart,” Gormley says. “The students learned the importance of TLC and how to take care of others. With the kindness they’ve shown and all they’ve learned, they’ll probably never forget this project for the rest of their lives.”

The students and staff are currently working on a video containing messages of aloha that will further grow the net of support that started with simple pieces of paper and heartfelt messages.

“It brought the students and teachers together in support of Japan,” Gormley says. “It was very important.”

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