After Soddy-Daisy native James Hughes watched his current and childhood homes endure earthquakes, tsunamis and tornadoes, he knew he had to do something to help.
Hughes has been teaching English in Japan to people ranging from kindergartners to adults. He was teaching an adult class when the March earthquake and tsunami struck. He was unhurt, but watching the devastation to his new country, he wanted to help it heal.
Since then, Hughes has been raising funds for Red Cross relief efforts, trying to catch donors’ attention by pledging to climb the tallest mountain in Japan, Mount Fuji.
“I wanted to take advantage of the ‘wow factor,’” he said in an email. “When people hear ‘Mount Fuji’ I think it’s a good way to grab their attention.”
A month after the quakes, Hughes saw the destruction of his community back home by tornadoes. He contacted the local Red Cross and pledged to split any money he raises 50-50 between the two causes.
“There’s always the thought that, ‘Well, giving is nice, but we have needs back home,’ so I thought that was a valid point and wanted to try to help out back home as well as abroad,” he said. “In this instance, one donation gives people the opportunity to help both in the local community and to reach out to brothers and sisters abroad.”
Hughes has raised about $300 so far, and hopes to reach $1,000 before he begins his climb July 3.
“I think he’ll be surprised by how well it does,” said Claudia Moore, chief development officer for the Chattanooga Red Cross. “We have a fantastic community.”
Hughes’ family and friends stood outside the Soddy-Daisy Walmart collecting donations Saturday and will do so again today from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Those wishing to donate can stop by the Walmart or mail donations to the Chattanooga Red Cross at 801 McCallie Ave. with a note indicating the funds are for the Mount Fuji fund.