On March 11, 2011, a massive earthquake struck the Tohoku region of Japan, resulting in a devastating tsunami that ravaged the coast just 180 miles from Tokyo. In response, Students Rebuild partnered with DoSomething.org to ensure students worldwide have a way to support their Japanese peers.
The challenge was to make and mail in an origami crane by April 15, 2011, and each crane received was matched with $2 to rebuild in Japan by the Bezos Family Foundation. The goal was 100,000 cranes to represent wishes of support and healing, which would trigger $200,000 from the foundation to fund Architecture for Humanity's Tohoku reconstruction efforts in partnership with Japanese designers and builders. According to legend, anyone who folds a thousand paper cranes, which are sacred creatures in Japanese culture, will be granted a wish by a crane.
The response was over 2,000,000 cranes from 38 countries! From Armenia to New Zealand, from rural Kansas to urban Philadelphia, from elementary school classrooms to church basements and community cherry blossom festivals, young people came together to fold paper cranes – and mailed them by the boxful. Students in Haiti folded hundreds of cranes for Japan during the groundbreaking of a newly reconstructed Students Rebuild school in Port au Prince. Six weeks after the disaster, we counted an incredible 1 million cranes – exceeding our wildest hopes.
When the crane count exceeded the half-million mark, the Bezos Family Foundation decided to double its gift to $400,000 to reflect and further support the outpouring of generosity from young people across the world. Shortly after, an anonymous donor came forward to add $100,000 – making $500,000 for Japan!
In the spirit of the challenge, 100,000 cranes have become a permanent art installation in two schools and a community center in Sendai, Japan. This huge display of cranes is representative of the over 2 million cranes contributed by young people worldwide, a symbolic gift from students around the globe.