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1,000 Cranes Community Recovery Project: Helping the Japanese People

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The 1,000 Cranes Community Recovery Project is a grass roots effort to help the people of Japan rebuild after the devastating earthquake and tsunami of March 2011 by sending money directly to hard hit community institutions or organizations in need.  We are doing this by gathering small donations from members of our own community who may not be able to give large sums to help our brothers and sisters overseas and bringing people everywhere together in the process. The little origami cranes that we are offering for “adoption” are visual reminders not only of the plight of our those who are without, but of the love, peace, and connection available for us to share.

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How it started

Origami Paper Crane: Symbol of Peace and Long LifeIt was a few days after the dire events in Japan, and Mesa Creative Arts Center Co-director, Kate Silberberg, was practicing folding paper cranes in preparation for her last session of an Origami class she was teaching as part of the “Donaldson Discovers” afterschool enrichment program.  She had watched the images on the internet just hours after the earthquake had struck as shifting earth and roiling water wracked the island of Japan.  As if that wasn’t enough, with nuclear reactors damaged by the earthquake, Japan was once again being threatened by man’s use of the primordial power of the atom.  As Kate folded the squares of paper into graceful birds, she remembered the faces of the people she had seen in the videos and photos and thought about how she’d like to be able to send money to aid in relief and rebuilding efforts.  The figure of $1,000 came into her mind and she lamented the fact that the nature of our work at The Mesa just didn’t leave us that much to spare.

As she continued to practice the cranes, traditional symbols of peace and long life, Kate remembered the story of Sadako Sasaki, a 12yr old Japanese girl who survived the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima but developed radiation sickness (leukemia).  Following a Japanese folk tradition that anyone who folded 1,000 paper cranes would be granted a wish by a crane, Sadako started making them in the hopes that she would get well and live.  She folded 644 cranes with the support of her family and community who brought her precious scraps of paper for the birds, but died before she could finish 1,000.  Her classmates folded the remaining 356 cranes and they were buried with her.  The students then collected money to erect a statue to honor her in the Peace Park created in Hiroshima.

Kate realized that others like herself who wanted to help may not have $1,000 to spare either.  All of this got her thinking.  What if she folded 1,000 cranes and put them up for “adoption”, asking people to help with a minimum $1 donation for each one?  That way many of us together could send $1,000 to help Japan while the cranes themselves would act as touchpoints to connect us by their presence in our homes, offices, and community gathering places.  They would be visible reminders to focus on peace and recovery, instead of disaster and despair.  And so the “1,000 Cranes Community Recovery Project” was born.  (You can watch Kate make an origami crane in the video at the bottom of this page.)

As we talked about this beautiful idea, we decided that we wanted the money to go directly to the people who needed it the most; small community institutions or organizations hard hit by the earthquake and tsunami, instead of turning funds over to some mega-charity to be swallowed up in operating expenses or sent to another country entirely.  But how would we find out who was in need and where to send money in a country halfway around the world?

As luck would have it, we had come to meet Shoko, a Japanese born woman whose son took part in our 300 Drums Project at Donaldson elementary school.  In late February she volunteered to help out in Kate’s origami class and we found out that the family was moving back to Japan, scheduled to travel there on what turned out to be the third day after the earthquake occurred.  Gratefully, Shoko’s family back in Japan is safe and her move has been delayed for a couple of months, but in the meantime she has agreed to help us find a school, hospital, library, or other community organization(s) that we can send funds to directly.  When we saw her a couple of weeks after the earthquake, Shoko graciously brought us a bag of cranes she had folded to offer for adoption as well as a donation.

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Why help Japan?

On the day of the double disaster we were saddened to see ignorant comments on YouTube to the effect that the earthquake and tsunami were Karmic paybacks for Japan, cause and effect from Pearl Harbor and prior imperialism.  We have an entirely different take on it.  This geopathic stress event occurred just two days after we entered the last and top-most (Unity) level of the Mayan Calendar.  Mother Earth needed to rebalance herself from the effects of human discord and disregard.  An event was inevitable.  (At least one very psychic friend of ours had been telling us it was coming for weeks.  The only question was “where?”.)  Think for a moment of the sheer build up of energy that it took to produce the earthquake and tsunami.  Science would tell us that it was about geophysical stresses, but Indigenous peoples all over the world have been warning us about our mistreatment of our Great Mother and the consequences of our continuing to abuse her and each other.

Of all the people on our Earth, the Japanese were likely the best equipped to withstand the terrible blows; emotionally, spiritually, physically (quake resistant buildings), and economically.  From a Cosmic point of view (the way we see it), those Souls volunteered take the hit for all of us so we could learn vicariously from their experience within the safety of our nice warm intact homes.  The new energies coming to us through Universal Consciousness are causing chaos, but also urging us to reunite us as the Family of Humanity.  That is the potential.  What happened in your birth family affected you when you were growing up, and what happens to any of us on this Earth does on some level as well.  None of us are really safe until we are all safe.  None of us are healed until we are all healed.  None of us can truly be at Peace until we all have Peace.

The Japanese people have handled the aftermath of Nature’s devastating one-two punch with grace, civility, caring, sharing, prayer, and Unity.  Compare that to the looting, shooting, and “me-first” reactions to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005, not to mention government indifference to the needs of our own people.  (The Japanese people donated $13 million for relief after the storm struck.)  Just think what it would have been like if the 9.0 quake and tsunami had struck in India or even California.  We owe the Japanese people a debt of gratitude for the lessons they are teaching us by their ordeal and their example.

The devastation in Japan has also brought onto the Earth a new awareness of other people and other cultures as images of the quake and tsunami immediately flashed over the internet.  Many people were struck with a visceral sensation of the suffering of others.  We imagined it happening to us.  This recognition of our interconnectedness is giving a much needed boost in the energies of Oneness that will be required to bring all people of the world together.  We are using the Asian art of Origami paper folding as a cross-cultural teaching tool, reminding the people here in the Pittsburgh area, the US, and beyond that we are all more alike than different.

We have set up a special checking account through Mesa Creative Arts, Inc to handle the donations separately from our operating funds and disburse the proceeds.  As Kate folds paper cranes, she puts prayers and good intentions for Japan, love, and peace in the world in each one as she folds, much like when we make Native American tobacco prayer ties for ceremony.  Some people have generously given us fives, tens, or $20 bills as donations, often telling us to keep the cranes.  We insist that they adopt at least one, as visual representations of peace, healing, and connection and to spread the word of our efforts to help Japan.  In their graceful silence, the paper birds remind us to send good thoughts and energy to Japan and to each other.

At the rate things are going, it looks like we’ll be able to quickly exceed Kate’s $1,000 goal.  For right now, it is our intent to keep making cranes and sending money until Japan recovers.  In the long run, our vision is to continue making cranes and send money to other small communities in need.

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How can you help?

Rows of origami cranes stand ready for you to adopt them and help rebuild Japanese communities with your donation to the 1,000 Cranes Community Recovery Project.
First of all, take a deep breath, let go of any doomsday fears, and send Love to the people of Japan and to Mother Earth.  Be conscious of your wake as you move through life and practice brotherhood and kindness to others.

If you’d like to donate money to help us help the Japanese people rebuild, you can drop by The Mesa Creative Arts Center to leave a donation and pick up a crane or two.  We’ll also be taking some of them with us most anywhere we go to tell Sadako’s story and receive donations.  You can also mail a check or call us at The Mesa (724-947-3097) with a credit card number and request the number of origami cranes you want to adopt.  We’ll mail them to you with instructions on how to open up their wings.

Once you receive your crane, put it in a prominent place where you’ll see it as you go about your day. Every time you look at this symbol of peace and well-being say a prayer, or a few encouraging words, not only for the people of Japan, but for us all.  Send positive thoughts and love, or just smile.  Together we are changing our world.

We’ve also set up a PayPal account for “1,000 Cranes”  (see “Donate” button below) so that you can donate with a credit card right here over the internet and we will mail you one or more cranes.  Please be aware that it costs us about 2.5% in fees for any credit card or PayPay transactions.  It is our aim to keep the amount we take out of the funds for envelopes and postage to a minimum, so sending a Self-addressed, stamped envelope will help.  At this time, we envision no other administrative costs.

We humbly ask for donations of Origami paper (available from Michaels and other art/craft stores) to help the cause.  If you’re interested in getting involved, we’ll teach you to fold cranes or give you a box or basket of them to offer for adoption and collect donations at your event, workplace, school, or community organization.  Let us know if you can think of other ways to help, such as with publicizing the effort.

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Please make all checks payable to “1,000 Cranes Community Recovery Project” (Or just “1,000 Cranes CRP”) and mail them to:

1,000 Cranes Project
The Mesa Creative Arts Center
30 Miller Business Park Dr.
Burgettstown, PA  15021

We thank all of our Mesa Family in advance for contributing to this worthwhile undertaking.

Love and Light to you,
Kate and Brad

Please note that Mesa Creative Arts, Inc is NOT (in legal terms) a non-profit and cannot supply a tax deduction for your donation.


1,000 Cranes Project Stats (as of 12/7/11):

Cranes made by Kate Silberberg:


Total cranes made by project volunteers:


Cranes adopted:


Funds donated to the project:


Funds sent to Japan:



Want to learn how to fold your own paper cranes?  Here’s a tutorial from Kate Silberberg:


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Brad Silberberg is an artist and holistic healer who envisioned
 The Mesa Creative Arts Center and Mesa Healing Center as a place of awakening for art, healing, and spiritual expansion.

Mesa Creative Arts, Inc.,   30 Miller Business Park Drive, Burgettstown, PA 15021    (724) 947-3097

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