By KATHRYN ACREE
After the earthquake and resulting tsunami that recently struck Japan, Greystone Elementary first grade teacher Lori Pollard’s thoughts turned to former Japanese students who had returned home.
“When I heard the news on March 11, my heart just ached,” Pollard said. “We’ve had many Japanese children attend Greystone Elementary while their families work for Honda. Often they have lived here for three to five years.”
After finally getting into contact with the families they knew in Japan and discovering they had survived, Pollard began to look for a project benefitting the recovering country.
While looking online, Pollard discovered an organization called Students Rebuild that encourages making origami cranes for Japan. The Bezos Family Foundation has committed to a $200,000 donation by paying $2 for every origami crane received. Once receiving 100,000 submissions, the cranes will be woven into an art installation in Japan to show students the support they have from their peers around the world. Funds will also go to reconstruction through Architecture for Humanity.
“I find it fascinating that even students in Haiti will be participating in this project after surviving a massive earthquake,” said Pollard. “It is such a wonderful idea.”
According to the Students Rebuild website, cranes are sacred creatures in Japanese culture. Legend says anyone who folds a thousand paper cranes will be granted a wish by a crane.
Students and teachers at Greystone Elementary jumped at the idea of joining the project. Through tutorials online and sites like YouTube, students learned the art of folding origami cranes. Construction paper and specially made colorful origami paper came from classrooms and was sent in from student’s homes.
Some students who quickly became experts at folding the cranes were deemed “origami masters” and visited other classrooms to help them along.
“It feels better knowing we’re doing something after the earthquake to let them know we care,” said fifth grader Brooks Rice, an origami master.
Kindergarten and first grade classes showed their support by friendship puppies, which have a design that is more simple to fold. Although they could not send them in for the crane project, the puppies decorated an area in the school’s lobby alongside the cranes to show that even the youngest of students were thinking of their Japanese peers.
The students packaged and sent more than 1200 cranes the week of April 11.
In addition to the cranes, fifth grader Shion Yoshida offered to start collecting funds that would go to the American Red Cross’ earthquake and tsunami relief fund. She and her mother, Mayu, placed a collection jar in the school lobby each day for two weeks. They created a display board giving facts on Japan so Shion’s fellow students could learn a little more about the country they were sending disaster relief funds to.
“They continue to have aftershocks in Japan, and I know the American Red Cross needs our support,” Shion said. By early April, the fund had more than $1,500 in donations.
“I’m so honored our school is able to be a part of rebuilding efforts in some small way,” said Pollard. “I think our students have opened their hearts to this project. It was so beautiful to see the cranes on display knowing they will go on to have even more purpose.”