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New Orleanian Responds to Earthquake in Japan

EDITOR’S NOTE: NolaVie is reposting a series of stories this week to celebrate its birthday, and to demonstrate the diversity of material published on the website in its first year.

The first photo on the Facebook page for “Dear World, Write Our Future” is a hand, photographed in black and white, with thick black writing: “Japan – from our hand to yours,” with the caption, “Prayers and Love.”

The photo is one of hundreds on Dear World’s page, each expressing hope, courage and solidarity to the people of Japan.

Dear World is a new extension of Dear New Orleans, a venture started by Robert Fogarty, founder of, as a way to help finance his nonprofit that seeks to evacuate car-less citizens of New Orleans in the event of a hurricane. Since Dear New Orleans launched last year, thousands of photos have been taken of New Orleanians (and beyond) who have written creative and heartfelt love notes to their city on their hands, arms, chest and fingers.

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Just five days before the catastrophic earthquake and tsumani that ravaged Japan last Friday, Fogarty launched Dear World at Harvard’s Social Enterprise Conference, where he gave the final keynote address and explained his expanded vision.

“With Dear World, I want to build something beautiful with Dear New Orleans as our foundation,” Fogarty said. “We will have people on the ground, curating beautiful content from all over the world. From every photo we take from now on, we ask that every person who gets photographed donate a minimum of $1 to a cause or charity. We want to be significant in every international event where people try to organize and come together for a cause.”

When the tsunami hit the northeast coast of Japan, Fogarty recognized the opportunity to photograph notes to Japan and raise money for the relief efforts. In a matter of days, hundreds of people from around the world have sent him their own photos of their notes to Japan, and he photographed more than 60

people at a New Orleans-themed party on Monday at Austin’s South by Southwest festival.

“Almost every person who we photographed donated by texting to the American Red Cross,” Fogarty said. “And the message is out that you can make an impact even if we can’t get to you. Take out a pen, write your message, and send it to Dear World. People are making it their profile pictures now and telling people to text to donate to the Red Cross.”

While he doesn’t have exact figures, he hopes

the event raised more than $500 toward the effort.

This is only the beginning for Dear Japan and Fogarty’s efforts. With the help of underwriters and sponsors, he will be traveling to Washington, D.C. to photograph Dear Japan notes at an event on Sunday put together by American University’s Japanese American Student Association. When he returns to New Orleans soon after, he is planning on doing three more events for Japan, with the hopes of collecting more donations for the relief effort.

“I want people to recognize that there are opportunities within the event to raise money,” he said.

Fogarty believes the Dear Japan events will resonate in New Orleans and with New Orleanians, just as his Dear Haiti event did more than one year ago, which was a big inspiration for Dear World.

“What’s happened in New Orleans in the past five years, they get what it means to have something of value, and almost see it go away, and what it means to fight for it,” he said. “It’s a translatable experience – it’s translatable to Japan now just as it was with Haiti last year.”

Look for updates on Dear Japan events in New Orleans on the Dear World Facebook page. The slideshow that accompanies this story comprises photos taken from Monday’s Downtown Development District’s New Orleans party in Austin, Texas, as part of South by Southwest.Catherine Lyons writes about the New Orleans entrepreneurial community for NolaVie. She can be reached at For more information on NolaVie, visit


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