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Catalyzing to help Japan

Japan, May 26, 2011

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Mary Tam/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Taiko drumming troupe Taiko Ren's energetic performance brought tears to the eyes of some attendees. Photo: Mary Tam/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Mary Tam/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Pixar organizers and volunteers created special shirts for the Japan benefit concert. Photo: Mary Tam/Mercy Corps

What does it take to start a movement? Mercy Corps is fortunate to have a large base of passionate supporters who rally their communities to support people facing natural disasters, civil conflict, poverty and oppression around the world.

Every once in a while there is a catalyst that not only motivates the immediate community, but manages to stimulate a larger movement, transcending both physical and social boundaries. Such a movement has been initiated by Pixar employee Daisuke (Dice) Tsutsumi and Artists Help Japan (AHJ), a grassroots effort to help affected communities in Japan.

It began with a desire to help the earthquake and tsunami survivors in Japan. Dice was already a Mercy Corps donor and knew that we were partnering with the Japanese non-governmental organization Peace Winds. It became a host of events — both in the U.S. and overseas — reflecting a collaborative effort to support relief and recovery in Japan. So far, AHJ events have raised over $45,000 for Mercy Corps and Peace Winds!

I was able to attend From Oakland With Love, an AHJ benefit concert held at The Uptown Nightclub in Oakland, California. Sureena Mann, another Pixarian, organized this great event which included everything from Pixar employee cover bands to a captivating taiko drumming performance to fun revenue-generating components such as raffle prizes, auction items and t-shirt sales.

Sureena notes, “Everyone keeps referring to it as a great party, not necessarily a fundraiser.” It’s a wonderful thing when people can gather together for a good cause, make valuable contributions and remember it fondly as a fantastic time.

Gifts inspired by Dice and AHJ have also come in from Bay Area companies such as Ghostbot and Incase. Shakti Dance Movement, a dance studio in Hawaii, came across information on AHJ online and was inspired to join the fundraising effort. It appears the AHJ movement has taken on a life of its own!

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. While Newton was not specifically referring to the world’s reaction to humanitarian crises when he declared his third law, I like to think we have the potential to make it relevant — and perhaps even incite a response that outweighs the original action. Each individual, community and company that contributes to addressing these issues is fueling that collective and contagious reaction, displaying to the universe we are more than the sum of our parts.

Thanks to all the organizers, donors, volunteers and guests who made From Oakland With Love a great party and successful fundraiser!

Donations: Larry Trujillo and The Uptown Nightclub (great venue!), Mark Andrews, Shotgun Players of Berkeley/Joanie Mc Brien, Art of Up books/Jonas Rivera and Bob Peterson, 510 Burger food truck/Roland, Ebbet’s food truck/Shari & Suzanne, Festoon Salon/Daphne, Bodhi, Ashburn, A Cote Restaurant/Ashlie Gonzales, Article Pract of Oakland/Christina Stork, Sway Boutique of Oakland/Charelle Russell, Benefit Cosmetics/Jeni Jensen, Dice Tsutsumi, Super Brand Cosmetics/Khoren Manouk, Scala's Bistro/Jennifer Beisty, McSweeney's Publishing/Adam Krefman, Danielle Feinberg

Musicians: DJ Choco, Taiko Ren, Chixar, Weezaren't, Schnittmeister

Volunteers: Sureena Mann, Jimmy Lillard, Angelique Reisch, Jon Reisch, Susan Bradley, Angela Petrella, AJ Riebli, Ben Rillie, Cassandra Smolcic, Sarita White, Axel Geddes, Sarah Reimers