One Thousand Good Wishes for Japan

By Faith Walauskas -

The 9.0 magnitude earthquake that hit Japan March 11, the resulting tsunami and the threat of nuclear disaster has devastated that country and its citizens. People around the world are offering to help Japan recover from the disaster in any way possible.

Penn Manor students also “wish” to contribute their help.

A class in the art department is taking time from their normal assignments to fold 1000 origami cranes that will be sold during homeroom periods to raise money towards the Japan relief effort.

“It wasn’t the teachers’ idea, but rather the students’,” said art teacher Karen Gingerich. “The original idea was to sell the origami paper to students during homeroom, have them write a wish on the back, then return the paper to be folded and displayed in the administrators’ office.”

The cranes are folded by Penn Manor High School students.

The idea for the cranes is based on a story called Sadako Sasaki and the Thousand Paper Cranes.  The girl was only two years old when the U.S. dropped the atom bomb on her city (Hiroshima).  Several years later she developed leukemia, most likely from the bomb’s radiation.

Sadako folded cranes while she was in the hospital after a friend told her about a Japanese legend offering a cure from illness to anyone who could fold one thousand origami cranes.

But Sadako didn’t live long enough.  Her family and friends folded the cranes so that she could be buried with one thousand. She was only 12 years old when she died.

August 6 is Peace Day in Japan and people there leave thousands of paper cranes below a statue of Sadoko’s likeness to express their wish for peace in the world. Paper cranes are placed beneath Sadako’s statue by people who wish to remember Hiroshima and express their hopes for a peaceful world. Their prayer is engraved on the base of the statue: “This is our cry, this is our prayer; peace in the world.”

The cranes are colorful and varied.

“It was our 4th block drawing class,” said Gingerich.  “We’re working on a drawing we started last Monday that explores origami paper folding, using the shapes as the subject matter.

“We started the project on Tuesday, March 15, the earthquake happened on Friday the 11th,” Gingerich said.

“Sianna Emrich suggested the idea of 1000 cranes for Japan and I was immediately excited,” Gingerich recalled. “We started brainstorming, we talked about the story of the girl, the tradition (1000 wishes for hope, health, love).  We chose the symbol of hope.”

Gingerich said the students decided to use the cranes as a fundraiser to help the people of Japan and began folding the cranes immediately.

“We’ve folded 400 cranes already,” she said.  “Each crane displays a wish for hope. We will continue collecting donations to reach our goal of $1,000.”

Gingerich said any money raised will be going specifically to the children of Japan who have suffered from the disasters but she said they are not certain if they will donate through UNICEF, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, or through another charity.

“I love the symbolism behind the crane,” said Gingerich.  “These students are truly making a difference one crane at a time; the impact is pretty powerful.”

She said a table will be set up in the cafeteria next week for students to make donations.

Kira Klassen, who was instrumental in creating the crane project, shares an important connection with Japan – her father currently lives there.

Several hundred cranes were folded so far by art students.

“He didn’t like the earthquake at all, but he’s fine,” said senior Kira Klaassen, “They’re also feeling progressively larger aftershocks. The Internet’s been down in some parts of Japan for awhile.”

It was natural for Klaassen to be involved in the project.

“I have really been interested in Japanese culture, they have a lot of history that we should all learn to appreciate,” said Klaassen.  “The cranes are the symbol of hope and that’s exactly what Japan needs. Food is very scarce in parts of Japan right now, bread is limited and clean water, after the flooding.

“I just want to be able to help any way possible,” said Klaassen.

For more information on the tradition of folded cranes, go to the 1000 Cranes of Hope website.

Photos by Karen Gingerich.