CAMP KINSER, OKINAWA, Japan – -- style="margin: 0in 0in 8pt;">Students in Mrs. Ayano Shimojo’s culture classroom counted quietly in pairs as they strung vibrant paper cranes to make a “senbazuru” for the elementary students effected by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico Nov. 6 at the Kinser Elementary School aboard Camp Kinser.
In a joint community outreach effort, Kinser Elementary School asked the local and military community to fold hundreds of paper cranes and place them in designated drop boxes around Okinawa, Japan, for the victims of Hurricane Maria. Even students in Germany mailed in cranes to Shimojo’s classroom.
Shimojo and Chief Warrant Officer John Hyatt led the Kinser Elementary School Students in the efforts to make senbazuru for the elementary students of Antilles Elementary School. Senbazuru is a group of 1,000 origami paper cranes made of 25 long strands of 40 cranes. The cranes symbolize hope and healing during challenging times.
According to Hyatt, a food service officer with Headquarters Regiment, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force, the crane in Japan is a mythical creature believed to live 1,000 years. The Okinawan belief is that if you fold 1,000 cranes and put them together you would get a wish. Over time it became a symbol of hope. Fathers would make it for their daughters on their wedding day. Other times people would give it to those who were sick, or in this case, when disaster strikes.
The communities donated so many cranes that the Kinser Elementary Students will be making two senbazuru.
“This attempts to teach kids something a little bit different than the tangible things that everybody gives,” said Hyatt. “These cranes represent the physical and intangible part of what they are giving. Their hopes, their prayers, their love and their time.”
Students sat on the floor in pairs of two as they strung the cranes into lines of 40, quietly counting to themselves. Some strings were tied to chairs, others were held in-between the small fingers of another student.
The students selflessly dedicated time during their recess and afterschool to sit in Shimojo’s brightly colored classroom to string together cranes.
“It’s important that we are teaching our children to be global citizens and to have compassion and passion for those around the world,” said Lucille Sutherland, the principal of Kinser Elementary School. “They’re doing this for kids they don’t even know. They were so happy to contribute their recess, their own time, just to make someone else happy. This just shows what a caring community this is. To be the principal of something this awesome, I am humbled.”