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Three Years after Japan Disaster, Local Group Brings Smiles to Survivors

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Three years ago today, a 9.0 Magnitude earthquake rattled Northeastern Japan, triggering a tsunami that swallowed entire cities. Then came the nuclear disaster that displaced several thousand residents along the coast.

As a result of the disaster, 15,000 people lost their lives, more than 6,000 were injured, and 2,600 are still considered missing.

A Sacramento-based group has been sending positive messages to those affected since the disaster. The group called “Keep Smiling Project 38” was founded by Sacramento residents Keisuke Ida and Nathan Hedley.

Founders of the project hoped to lift the spirits of survivors by sending words of encouragements in the form of letters, photos, artwork, and videos for 38 months.

The group has teamed up with Sacramento State University’s Japanese studies program to send almost 500 “smiles” across the Pacific.

“I was like, ‘Wow, I’m just starting to learn about these people, and the culture,’ and to find out they are hit by these unexpected circumstances, and it was saddening,” Japanese language student at CSU Sacramento, Chais Lyons, said. “We’re college students, and we don’t have a whole bunch of money, so we at least try to send our sentiments over.”

Lyons is one of about 300 “smile” donors from the CSU Campus.

“I’ve been told that even if I send a hug out, that hug can change someone’s life, more than you think,” student donor, Mitul Bhakta, said.

“I want to try to make a positive influence in someone’s life,” student donor, Dillon Scheive said.

Some students believe sending “smiles” is only the beginning.

“I know for sure, they’re not done fixing things, so I hope people realize that even though it was three years ago, it’s not over,” student donor, Amy Ingoglia, said.

Early estimates placed insured losses from just the earthquake at around $35 billion. However, the World Bank estimated $235 billion in total damage costs, making it the costliest natural disaster in history.

In return, survivors from Iwate Prefecture have sent many photos of themselves, smiling.

For more information on Keep Smiling Project 38, go to http://www.keepsmilingproject38.com/

Or Like their facebook page https://www.facebook.com/keepsmilingproject38#!/keepsmilingproject38

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