Former CNN correspondent Kathleen Koch hopes to fill her mailbox several times over with letters written to Japan.
Koch, who was reared in Bay St. Louis, is asking South Mississippians who survived the ordeal of Hurricane Katrina to write letters of support and encouragement for those now suffering in the aftermath of a destructive earthquake and tsunami.
She calls the project “Words of Hope for Japan.”
“I felt like we understand,” she told the Sun Herald by phone from her home near Washington, D.C.
Koch wants to deliver over a quarter-million pieces of mail to the Japanese Embassy, which has agreed to deliver the well wishes to people in Japanese shelters. She said more than 270,000 people in Japan are living in shelters and she wants each one to have a handwritten letter or a hand-drawn picture from those too young to write. Most people in Japan can read some English or have access to a translator, Koch said.
Donations are an obvious reaction to the catastrophe, she said, but Koch wanted to do more.
Then she remembered a book she owns, “Letters from Katrina: Stories of Hope & Inspiration.”
The book was filled with letters written by children around the country to the children of the Gulf Coast after Katrina.
“They were so inspiring and meant so much to the children,” she said.
She’d like to do the same thing for Japan that others did for South Mississippi, except letters should be sent to people of all ages. Writers should designate on the envelope if the letter is for a child. she said.
“If we could just send them letters and let them know ‘You can get through this,’” she said. “We understand. We care. Don’t give up hope. You’re not alone.”
Koch, who is now an author and speaker, also challenges the leaders of Coast cities to find a city in Japan to adopt. The people of Japan can be encouraged from South Mississippi’s resilience.
“Just knowing that someone, somewhere cares and understands I think can get you going,” she said.
Koch will expand the project to include the rest of the country soon.