2011: Paper Cranes for Japan Challenge
Earthquake and Tsunami Recovery

Cranes Hero

Your paper cranes generated $400,000 to rebuild Japan

March - June 2011

Youth from around the world 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 donated funding for each crane, resulting in $400,000 in donations to DoSomething.org and Architecture for Humanity.

Challenge Overview

On March 11, 2011 a massive earthquake and tsunami struck Sendai, Japan.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Challenge Impact

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.

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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.

Gallery

2 million paper cranes

The outpouring of support from all corners of the world filled us with hope and courage, and inspired artists to create installations that celebrated to the compassion and connection of students around the world. Tohoku University design students created and installed a 100,000 crane sculpture in Sendai Train Station. Renowned visual artist Vik Muniz worked with youth to transform the cranes into a striking art piece that became a benefit poster.
Sendai Installation

A classroom team making cranes for the Challenge.

Kimi started a 1,000 paper crane project with her 6th grade classmates, when they'd made 600 cranes, they contacted Students Rebuild to ask some thoughtful questions about the donation.

All our cranes inspired artist Vik Muniz to create this incredible piece, and poster to raise even more money to support the recovery efforts.

So many beautiful cranes were made for this Challenge. Photo via Michel Behrens.

Students in Haiti with their paper cranes.

Students in Haiti making cranes for the Challenge!

Club Unesco making cranes for the Challenge.

Making paper cranes outdoors with the Garden Grove team!

Believe it or not, all these boxes (and more) are filled with paper cranes, sent to our Seattle office from all over the world to help rebuild schools in Japan.

Even the tiniest cranes were filled with love and hope!

Architecture for Humanity leads a workshop with students at the recently completed "We Are One" Market and Youth Center in Kitakami.

When news of the devastating tsunami and earthquake hit, many of our campers contacted us saying they wanted to do something. We learned of the Students Rebuild Japan Challenge and knew that we had to be part of it.

Where we came from

Cranes across borders

Here are the places our Paper Cranes for Japan Challenge teams call home. Click through the map to learn more about each team.
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Your Team
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Paper Cranes for Japan Challenge Teaching Materials

The Challenge is over, but you can still make a difference.

View and share the Paper Cranes for Japan Challenge video to inspire other young people to think about how they can make a difference.
Find curricula, videos, and more resources from all Challenges in our resource library.