When the principal, J.T. Wright and his wife, a white couple who served as mentors to Tibbs, accepted a position at the University of Washington (UW), they convinced her to move to Seattle with them in 1944 to continue her education. As a student at the University of Washington Tibbs met Akiko Kurose, a Japanese American student who would become a famed educator. She also met Floyd Schmoe, a forest and marine ecology professor and a popular Quaker who was committed to social justice, peace, and anti-racism. Through her connection to Schmoe, Dawson became involved in an effort (called work parties) to repair Nisei homes on the weekends after the U.S. government ordered the evacuation of the Japanese from King County on April 24, 1942.
After Tibbs graduated from the University of Washington in 1948, she took a teaching position at Harbison Junior College in South Carolina. Schmoe contacted her about joining a small interracial and interdenominational group in Seattle to help build houses in Hiroshima as a way to spread peace after the U.S. bombed the city. The group reached Hiroshima in August of 1949 and found few resources and supplies. Tibbs first volunteered at the Hiroshima Memorial Hospital preparing food in the kitchen. There, she witnessed the frailty of human bodies caused by the atom bomb four years earlier as well as the physical deterioration of the city that had been reduced to rubble and empty building frames.
Along with her work crew, Tibbs worked six hours a day, five days a week building new homes. Houses were built with timber frames and mud walls, the only materials available. Tibbs and other volunteers hauled lumber and mixed straw with mud for mortar to build the three-room tile-roof houses. She made nails from wooden pegs since the war destroyed much of the metal and tools in the city. She also walked back and forth to her job site everyday and slept on the floor in the basement of a church that was partly destroyed by the bomb. At the end of the three-month labor project, Tibbs had