According to a Japanese legend, should a person fold 1,000 origami cranes, a crane will grant them one wish, traditionally a wish for health or recovery from illness or injury.

Following the the earthquake, tsunami and resulting nuclear crisis in Japan, the USM Asian American Association and Symposium is continuing that tradition by folding 1000 origami cranes and selling them to raise funds for relief efforts.

On March 11 Japan was hit by a devastating 9.0 magnitude earthquake–powerful enough to move the Japanese island of Honshu 7.9 inches to the east — and a massive tsunami that swept away entire villages. Over three weeks later, more than 15,000 people are still missing.

The disaster was made worse when contaminated water began leaking into the ocean from a reactor at the heavily damaged Fukushima Dailchi nuclear plant. The leak has yet to be stopped. According to the BBC, Japanese authorities have said the levels of radioactivity will not be enough to endanger health.

Brie Dombrowski, president of AAAS and a senior at USM, said she got the idea to fold and sell the cranes when she noticed a group on Facebook that was folding cranes and posting pictures of them in support of Japan.

“It sent a nice message, but it wasn’t going to put food on empty plates or help rebuild houses,” said Dombrowski, whose boyfriend is Japanese and lost his uncle to the tsunami that hit Japan March 11.

Each crane sells for one dollar or whatever amount an individual would like to give. Funds raised by the crane sales will be donated to the American Red Cross, which is assisting the Japanese Red Cross with disaster relief.

Dombrowski said all of the staff in the Office of International Programs and all of the members of the AAAS donated time to folding the cranes.

“From there it was just word of mouth,” she said. “We had people’s parents or relatives showing up, alumni and people from the general community.”

The first folding session took place March 17. Dombrowski said around 40 people came and folded 467 cranes in two hours. When it was over, Dombrowski said people took extra origami paper home with them so that they could keep folding.

Dombrowski said March break made it difficult to spread the word, but they still folded cranes during that week.

“This box here has almost 200 and this came from some friends of mine up in Orono who saw me talking about it on Facebook and wanted to help but couldn’t come down,” said Dombrowksi, pointing to a large box full of the colorful and delicate paper cranes on Tuesday.

Dombrowski said she hopes all of the cranes will be sold by early April. The goal, she said, is to make at least  $1,000 from the cranes. “We were trying to kind of get it all together in such a time frame that people would still have the tsunami on their mind,”Dombrowski said.

In addition to the 1,000 cranes, the AAAS held a donation-based food sale in Luther Bonney Hall Wednesday.

“We’ve had a huge response, especially from local Japanese citizens in the area,” said Dombrowski. Miyake, a Japanese restaurant and sushi bar, among other local restaurants and bakeries, donated food to the AAAS fundraiser in support of Japan.

Kimberly Sinclair, interim director at the Office of International Programs, said students have stopped by with other fund-raising ideas for Japan that they hope can be arranged in the future. “If students have ideas, we’re happy to talk with students,” Sinclair said. “I think if people have something in mind that they’d like to do, maybe we could work with them. We would volunteer our services.”

According to Sinclair, the cranes that are not sold will be strung together and hung in the Abromson Community Education Center in Portland. 


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