An intricate work of art made up of origami cranes is currently being displayed in the Memorial Union (MU), after a student group decided to raise awareness for the 2011 Japanese tsunami.
“Our wish and prayer would be for Japan to heal,” said Noren Shoyeb, a senior mechanical engineering major and one of the project’s creators. “In addition to the prayers from UC Davis students, we wanted to instill a bit of Japanese culture into their lives in order to raise awareness of Japan and the turmoil they are still currently in.”
A thousand paper cranes were made and strung together to form a senbazuru. Japanese culture regards the senbazuru as a symbol for health and longevity.
Over five organizations, including Catalyst and Circle K, and more than 300 students helped in folding the cranes. Many participants who had never worked with origami before had to be taught the delicate art form in order to participate. Shoyeb, along with the other members of the group Youngshin Song and Yuki Nakano, exchange students from Asia, wanted student participation rather than monetary donations in order to have a more meaningful and lasting impression on contributors to the project.
“Instead of money this project has allowed students to donate their time and prayers. It has given students the opportunity to be more hands-on,” Shoyeb said. “They can actually see what they have contributed.”
With help from coupons, the group only spent around $40 out of their own pocket on the project.
“Japan needs money to rebuild, but where money is limited, action like this is very valuable,” said Ritsuko Shigeyama, professor of East Asian languages and cultures.
Students involved in the project are taking part in the Student Leadership Development Series (SLDS). SLDS is an academic program that engages students in leadership and professional development training. The project “Single Crane, Single Wish” was developed and implemented by a group of three students working toward a certificate in SLDS.
SLDS encourages students to create projects such as these in order to gain valuable leadership skills while in college, rather than finding out the hard way in a workplace setting. Programs are open to all UC Davis students with varying levels of participation available.
“We have a whole variety of programs that are fun and interactive, not lecture style,” said Christie Navarro, program manager at the Center for Leadership Learning. “Now in college is the time to participate. It’s also a good avenue to interact because every single major and class level is represented.”
The creators behind “Single Crane, Single Wish” thought that a senbazuru fashioned by the community would be a perfect way to implement and practice their leadership skills. They hope that the project will bring attention to the people of Japan, especially after the disaster has largely disappeared from media attention. The magnitude 9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami, which struck Japan in March, fostered an immediate media blitz of the devastation, but coverage of the disaster dwindled surprisingly fast.
“Japan is not in the headlines anymore and people are not talking about it anymore,” Song said. “All that you hear about now is the royal wedding and Obama’s birth certificate.”
Involvement among UC Davis students in the project seems to have brought the subject of Japan back into the minds of some.
“They say that in Asia, cranes are symbols of longevity,” said Henry Young, a student participant. “I would like to wish Japan many long years of health through my building of the crane.”
MAX RUSSER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.