The earthquake and tsunami left nearly a million buildings damaged. More than 100,000 homes were ruined, and 15,000 people died. In just a few moments, children and families in the Sendai region found their lives turned upside down.
On March 11, 2011 a massive earthquake and tsunami struck Sendai, Japan.
We connected across oceans, and learned about the importance of coming together.
The earthquake and tsunami destroyed schools, libraries, stores, and parks, and pushed many families out of their homes—leaving young people without spaces to study or spend time with other children after school. As our teams connected and followed Japan’s recovery process from classrooms around world, they learned that rebuilding isn’t just about building schools or homes, but also inspiring a renewed sense of community and belonging.
When 2 million cranes showed up, we knew we could make a difference together.
In Japan the crane is a special symbol of hope, thought to bring healing during challenging times. Together, students around the world made more than 2 million origami cranes and raised $500,000 to support the design, repair, and construction of youth facilities. Architecture for Humanity worked with local partners to design and build a youth center and give students in Japan inspiring places to learn and thrive.
We built the “We are One” center as a space to for young people to gather.
One of the places built was the ‘We Are One’ center, called Kitakami. This space was designed to provide close, fresh food to the residents of Kitakami and also create a place for students to hang out after school. After the construction was completed, the community used the center right away.
Origami for Disaster Recovery
Youth supported by the Bezos Family Foundation folded paper cranes to support Sendai, Japan after it was hit by a massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011. The Bezos Family Foundation offered to donate $2 for each crane made to DoSomething.org and Architecture for Humanity.
By the Numbers
Students quickly reached the goal of 100,000 cranes and the Bezos Family Foundation raised their donation amount to $400,000 and then another $100,000 was donated by an anonymous source. Overall, 1055 teams made an incredible 2 million cranes to help Japan.
The Paper Cranes challenge funded many projects to rebuild in Japan in the Tohoku area specifically the Kitakami “We Are One” market and a youth center project.
What Happened With the Art?
A sculpture designed by Art and Design students using the cranes is now housed in Japan’s Sendai Train Station. The unveiling of the sculpture also included a three day event called “Gift by Gift for a Better World.” Cranes are also on display at a youth facility rebuilt by Architecture for Humanity.
Where we came from
Paper Cranes for Japan Challenge Teaching Materials
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