999 plus one Origami cranes equals a wish come true 

Alta Lake School students thinking of other children

Nine hundred and ninety-nine origami paper cranes hung in the air at the recent Bizarre Bazaar. The ornaments, hand-made by students in Alta Lake School’s Grade 3/4 class, with help from the Grade 5s and 6s, are a symbol of world peace, and were part of a project to raise money for a children’s orphanage and charity in Namibia.

According to teacher Robyn Borland, the students decided to do the origami project after hearing the story of Sadako Sasaki, who was exposed to radiation as a baby when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.

Sadako developed leukemia when she was 12 years old, and started folding paper cranes. Ancient Japanese legend has if you create 1,000 paper cranes, your wish will come true. Her wish was to live.

Sadako died after folding 650 cranes, but her classmates completed the 1,000 cranes and laid them on her grave in a wreath. Today, at Hiroshima Peace Park, tens of thousands of hand-made paper cranes are laid beside a statue of Sadako each year.

“I wanted to do something deeply meaningful with the students,” said Borland, who just started teaching at Whistler’s Waldorf School this year.  “We originally began with the goal of folding 300 as a class, which we thought was a realistic goal for nine students. After overcoming the complexities of folding the cranes, the students flourished, and we quickly met our goal of 300.”

Not wanting to stop, the class reset their goal for 1,000. They taught the Grade 5/6 class how to fold them so that they could help achieve that goal.

At first the cranes were made of origami paper, but soon other Alta Lake staff started bringing in old calendars and wrapping paper to be used for the project. Many of the cranes were made into mobiles or strung to hang from the ceiling. The project took approximately two months to complete.

“When we hit 999 cranes, the students stopped folding, on their own accord, so as to not spoil their wish. They decided to fold one large crane to have a raffle for, with each entrant being able to make one wish for the world on their ballot,” said Borland.

“This became very much the student's project,” said Borland. “They have been working cooperatively together, helping fellow students to learn how to fold the cranes. It was their idea to donate to an orphanage; they wanted to help out other children, since Sadako's life ended too soon.”

Winner of the raffle at Bizarre Bazaar was Alta Lake student Rowan Meronek, whose wish was for peace in the world.

A total of $440 was earned during this project, with 100 per cent of the proceeds going towards the SOS Children’s Village Ondangwa. The project, located in Namibia, will provide homes for 120 orphans, a kindergarten and a community outreach program. The project is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2008.


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