May 10, 2011

Hope to Hope: A high school’s response to Japan

From survivors in Costa Rica to survivors in Japan
Written by Chelsea Dozier
In the short time (1 ½ years) that ADE has opened the high school in response to the 2009 earthquake, there has been a string of not only temblors that periodically occur in the region but also natural disasters around the world that increased the feelings of overwhelment and powerlessness. Students who do not have much contact outside of the jungle rainforest have gone from examining not only their own earthquake disaster (human made and natural) to examining that of Haiti, China, and now Japan.

In keeping with the model of ADE that focuses on education, the high school decided to respond to Japan’s ‘Great East Earthquake’ by folding cranes (1000 to be exact) which are an ancient symbol of long life and peace in Japanese culture. These graceful Japanese birds are believed to have a mystical lifespan of 1000 years. Traditionally, it is believed that if one folds 1000 cranes one is granted a wish, like recovery from an illness. Historically, this tradition was set ablazed by a famous story of Sadako, a 12 year old girl who suffered from leukemia from the radiation after the Hiroshima bombing in WWII. A friend came to the hospital with paper for Sadako to make cranes. Sadako folded 1000 cranes before she passed away and her friends buried her with the cranes and helped create a memorial of her and others who suffered from the bombing, At the foot of Sadako's statue reads- This is our cry, This is our prayer, Peace on earth. 1000 cranes became a symbol of world peace.

It is with this desire to communicate our solidarity with Japan in their language that we set out to fold cranes. A better illustration might be this: Think of something dear to you; then, imagine if someone during a hardship gave this to you as an encouragement in your recovery.

The project had an enthusiastic start- we even came out on local news channel. Our 20 students folded for weeks to finally obtain the 1000. After about 200 grullas (that's cranes in Spanish) and teaching families and others in the local community how to make them, the enthusiasm fizzled. ‘Love is work, a decision, and commitment, not just a feeling’ became a desperate lesson as we kept folding and folding. However, the actual process of making them became a significant lesson, encouraging all of us to press on and not to forget about Japan, especially after seeing the myriad after effects that occurred while we were making the cranes.
    
Finally the day arrived when we finished 1000! All the students then strung the cranes in groups of 10 with needle and thread and one of our students constructed a stand to hang them-yes, the 100 strings of neatly stacked cranes. The student government and few other students who were most involved, traveled to the city, out of the rural area, to the Japanese Embassy to hand deliver our precious cranes along with the students’ email addresses to an affected school. We were told of a high school that was destroyed by the Tsunami and we were excited about the possibility of making more of a connection.

Across seas and beyond languages (although our students did learn a few phrases) our students learned to see themselves not as powerless but as agents of hope, however small- that anyone can reach out in small sensitive ways just to say ‘you are in our thoughts and prayers.’ It is our desire that in the midst of the uncontrollable disasters that occur in our lives and in our world, we can also set ablaze our own string of reflections, peace and hope that may provide a spiritual meaning to our existence and the existence of disasters, and encourage others to hold onto hope and compassion. Does compassion need sufferings to have a place? If so why is this?

Sample Origami Crane  

Working together on the Crane Project

Stringing cranes

Creating a
crane demonstration stand
One of our most prolific crane producer
Chelsea wrapping up the project with prayer

Delivering the cranes to the Japanese Embassy in San Jose


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