According to Japanese folklore, a person who folds 1,000 paper cranes will be granted one wish.
For the students of Community Day School, who have been busy folding cranes for the last few weeks, that wish will be for a Refuah Sheima (complete recovery) for the people of Japan suffering from the effects of the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck Sendai last month.
The students’ efforts are part of a worldwide project sponsored by Students Rebuild, based in Seattle, WA, in partnership with <bDoSomething.org. The goal of the project is to have children around the world fold 100,000 paper cranes, and send them to Seattle, by Friday, April 15. The Bezos Family Foundation will donate $2 per crane to Architecture for Humanity’s reconstruction efforts in Japan.
Once 100,000 submissions are received, the cranes will be woven into an art installation — a symbolic gift from students around the globe to Japanese youth.
Community Day School students are doing their part to contribute to the 100,000 total. Last week, they shipped out 500 handmade cranes to Students Rebuild, and have about 1,800 more ready to go. Their goal is to contribute 5,000 cranes, thereby raising $10,000.
“We have kids folding about 250 cranes a day,” said Sheila May-Stein, Community Day School librarian, who is helping head the project. “Everyone is participating. Kindergarteners are writing notes or drawing pictures on the papers. First-graders are writing more complicated messages. The older kids are folding.”
Jordan Hoover, Community Day School technology director, came up with the idea for the students to fold 1,000 cranes for the people of Japan as a spiritual wish for healing after the recent calamity. May-Stein then found the Students Rebuild project online, and realized the efforts of the students could actually raise some money for the Japanese people as well as provide a wish for recovery.
The tikun olam project also has provided an excellent opportunity for cross-curriculum studies, said Tim Richart, assistant director of Institutional Advancement at Community Day School.
“The math classes are counting the cranes, and calculating the percentage of the project that is complete,” Richart said. “In addition, our students are learning about Japanese culture, geometry, earthquakes and so much more.”
The project has taken wing all over the globe, from the United States, to the Czech Republic, to Romania, to Japan itself, said Welling Savo Justin, communications adviser at the Bezos Foundation.
“We have had a very powerful response,” she said. “We have had queries from 25 different countries, and requests for 3,000 mailing labels.”
“We’re getting all shapes, sizes and colors,” she continued. “We have tiny ones made from Starburst wrappers, and some from newspaper clippings, turning bad news into good news.”
Community Day School is one of only six schools in the Pittsburgh area to participate in the project.
The staff of Community Day School hopes this project will not only help to repair the devastation in Japan, but will also teach students about the importance of reaching out to the global community.
“This is a homogeneous school,” said May-Stein. “Everyone is white, and everyone is Jewish. It’s important that the world comes to [the students] a little. And we want the students to take their religion and sail it out into the world, to do whatever they can to help soldiers, or Haitians, or the Japanese.”
To expand the project beyond earthquake-tsunami relief, and beyond the walls of the school, Community Day School will be holding a communitywide event on May 23, inviting all to come and fold 1,000 cranes to send to the Children’s Peace Monument in Hiroshima, a tradition that honors a young girl named Sadako Sasaki, who died of leukemia 10 years after the atomic bombing, and all children killed by the atom bomb.
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at email@example.com.)