A disaster relief fund to support Columbus, Ohio’ sister city, Tainan in Taiwan, was announced in February to raise donations to support the earthquake-hit city. Tainan was the worst affected city when the 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck on February 6th, 2016, killing 116 and injuring many more. The oldest city in Taiwan, preliminary estimates suggest that repair work of 34 damaged historical monuments will cost an estimated $15.7 million, not including damage to other vital infrastructure. As such, officials from Ohio’s Franklin County established the Tainan Disaster Relief Fund through the Columbus Foundation, aiming to support victims and disaster relief efforts. The effort is currently accepting donations from the local community and any other interested donors.
Columbus and Tainan first became sister cities in 1980 with goals of educational exchange, political engagement, and sport exchange. Columbus currently has nine other sister city relationships, including ones in China and India. The 35 years of ties to Tainan have resulted in student exchanges between Otterbein University and the National University of Tainan, facilitated by Greater Columbus Sister Cities International. Cultural engagement has also been a central tenet of this relationship, with the Taiwanese Da-tang Group travelling to Columbus in 2014 to perform at the Asian Festival and an all-female Taiwanese photography exhibit at Otterbein University.
The latest effort adds to the rich history of disaster relief cooperation between US and Asian sister cities. The Eugene/Kathmandu Sister City Association in Oregon raised $30,000 in disaster and victim relief following the Nepal earthquake in 2015, alongside establishing a scholarship for Nepalese students wishing to study at the University of Oregon. In 2008, the Phoenix Sister Cities Chengdu Earthquake Relief Fund raised more than $120,000 in support for victims of the Sichuan earthquake in China, while also assisting education efforts. In Ohio, which has 14 sister city relationships with Japan across the state, multiple cities made outreach efforts to support their Japanese sister cities following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Often built around sister city relationships, these local and district level efforts reinforce national-level disaster relief efforts on the part of the US.
Edward Chang is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a student at the University of Sydney.