Toynami Brings Toys to Children in Tsunami-Stricken Japan
by Martinique Davis
Apr 03, 2011 | 1869 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
VIGIL - A group of citizens gathered for a candlelight vigil held Monday evening in Elks Park. (Photo by Brett Schreckengost)
VIGIL - A group of citizens gathered for a candlelight vigil held Monday evening in Elks Park. (Photo by Brett Schreckengost)
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TELLURIDE – Over the last two decades, Esprit Travel has guided hundreds of travelers through Japan, sending them off the beaten path to visit some of the more authentic rural towns in the country’s northeastern rim – towns like Sendai, which has since been virtually wiped off the map following the 9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami that rocked the country earlier this month.

Since the March 11 catastrophe, Telluride’s Nancy Craft, Esprit Travel guide (and Conde Nast-proclaimed Japan Travel Expert), has been fielding calls from concerned clients who want to know if the company has received word from some of the Japanese people they met during their travels there.

Questions like, “What happened to the priest in Sendai who walked us along the tsunami wall, telling us about the last tsunami?” have been difficult to answer, since like so many people with friends and family in the disaster-stricken part of the country, Craft simply doesn’t know.

She may not be able to assure past clients that the friends they made in Japan are OK, but she can at least offer this: The opportunity to assuage, if ever so slightly, some of their Japanese comrades’ discomfort

Thanks to the company’s just-launched relief effort, Esprit Travel is providing a channel through which individuals can offer personal and meaningful aid to the people of Japan.

Toynami is a drive to gather toys for children displaced by the disaster and now living in shelters, in an attempt to resurrect some small shred of normalcy for the youngest survivors of this recent catastrophe.

“What we’ve heard is that people’s essential needs – shelter, food, water, clothing – are being taken care of. But we still felt we wanted to do something,” Craft explains of Toynami’s creation. One of their Japan-based tour partners is currently working with the refugee relocation program in the inland city of Morioka, and helped guide the company in creating the toy drive concept.

“After a disaster like this, it’s important for people – especially kids – to have a feeling of normalcy, even if they’re living in a shelter. That was the whole idea behind [Toynami]; that here is a simple thing that can be really positive,” Craft says.

Esprit is taking on the project of collecting small toys and sending them to Morioka for direct distribution to Japanese children upon their arrival at relocation facilities. As of early this week, the company had received more than two dozen boxes of toys at its Las Vegas, Nev.-based office, and hopes to collect more in the coming weeks.

Craft says the company plans to collect toys that cover a wide range of ages (for both girls and boys, ages toddler through 15 years.) Cost of toys should be between $10-15 USD, and should be packaged in a gift bag that can be easily opened for airport customs inspection. Cosmetics, food or candy and dangerous items such as pocket knives will not be accepted; appropriate items include balls, small toys, small dolls, little girl purses, crayons, matchbox cars and picture books. Craft recommends including a personal note written in simple English to the child, and asks that all gifts be labeled with the intended gender and age.

“This just provides a more person-to-person way to help,” Craft says, noting that if people want to donate money to the cause they should do so via an established nonprofit aid organization like Habitat for Humanity or the Red Cross.

Gifts can be shipped directly to the Esprit Travel office in Las Vegas, to Esprit Travel & Tours, 9533 Rancho Palmas, Las Vegas NV 89117, or dropped off at Craft’s Lawson Hill home; she can be reached by email, nancycraft@gmail.com, for information.

For more information about Esprit Travel’s Toynami relief effort, visit www.esprittravel.com and click on the link, Esprit's Earthquake/Tsunami Relief Project for Children in Japan.
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