Children in Japan know the story of Sadako Sasaki, a young girl who, as a baby, survived “the Thunderbolt”— the atom bomb in Hiroshima—only to succumb to Leukemia as a young girl. She folded cranes in the hospital in hopes of reaching 1000, because as legend says, the gods would then grant her wish of good health. She died with just over 300 to go, and her classmates finished for her so she could be put to rest with all 1000 cranes.
Her story inspired a movement and, each year on August 6, middle-school students in Japan bring garlands of folded cranes to her memorial in Hiroshima Peace Park in honour of their wish: “This is our cry, this is our prayer: Peace in the world.” Eleanor Coerr wrote the children’s book Sadako, based on her novel Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, to honour her story. Coerr writes, “If you tell people that 200,000 died as a result of the bombing of Hiroshima, it doesn’t have as much impact as the story of one little girl.”
“When I lived in Japan, I went to the Peace Memorial many times and it was something that I wanted to bring back to Canada,” said Jody-lee Parasiers, Teacher, Drama, Junior School. “I think especially in this last year, it has been quite therapeutic for the girls to have this way of grounding and re-centering. It promotes a growth mindset too,” she added. “They compare their first crane to their last crane and they can see their journey and know they’re getting better each time they fold.”
Grade 6 students at Crofton House have surpassed their goal and folded over 1100 of the beautiful paper birds. “Our global wish is for peace and harmony,” said Olivia, Grade 6. We hope they get their wish for the world, but in class, the crane-wish seems to be coming true already: “It’s relaxing and your hands already know what to do, so you can almost do it with your eyes closed,” said Sienna, Grade 6. Some students have turned to origami for mindfulness and creativity outside of school as well. “I now have a stack of paper at home,” said Olivia.
Inspired by their own 1000-cranes efforts, Grade 6s are now attempting to fold 1000 ravens in the same spirit of peace and harmony before the end of the school year. This time, the focus is on the process of reconciliation in Canada, following the example of University of Northern British Columbia in partnership with UNBC’s First Nations Centre. Each raven they fold is an opportunity for students to reflect on the experience of Canada’s indigenous peoples through colonization and its ongoing impact, while expressing their wish for reconciliation.
If you’d like to begin your own origami practice for peace, here are some helpful tutorials: