Back in Japan, helping with relief efforts

Mike Luzia of Abbotsford has returned to Japan, where he was an English teacher. -
Mike Luzia of Abbotsford has returned to Japan, where he was an English teacher.
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An Abbotsford man who was living in Japan at the time of the devastating earthquake and tsunami on March 10, and then came home for a few weeks, has returned to the nation to help with relief efforts.

Mike Luzia arrived Sunday, May 1 in Onagawa, Japan – a small fishing village that was one of the hardest hit areas – to resume his teaching job and find out what help is needed.

Mike lived in Onagawa for two and a half years and lost his apartment there – and everything in it – when the tsunami swept through the village of about 10,000. He had been teaching English four days a week in Onagawa and one day a week at a school on the nearby island of Izushima, where he was when the disaster struck.

Both schools were spared.

His mom, Sue, said Mike was eager to return to Japan and find out how his students, friends and neighbours are faring, as little information has been available.

“He told me, ‘Don’t expect me home for a minimum of three months,’ “ Sue said.

Many of Mike’s students would have lost their parents, but he didn’t know the full extent of the loss. While in Abbotsford, he raised about $5,000 from friends and family to help with whatever immediate needs he discovers in Japan.

Another purpose for Mike’s trip is to inform supporters of the needs in Onagawa. The village of Steveston in Richmond has adopted the Japanese community, and the Rotary Club of Steveston has raised more than $150,000 for rebuilding efforts.

“He (Mike) is going to be the ears and eyes on the ground for the people in Steveston,” Sue said.

She said it’s not yet apparent where Mike will stay in Japan, but he might end up living at the school in Onagawa.

Before heading there, he spent some time in China with his girlfriend, Hui Wen Shi, and her family.

Shi, who was attending university in Japan, was in Mike’s apartment at the time of the tsunami and escaped to high ground as the water swept over the village.

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