CHS Students Folding Paper to Help Japan

Claudia Holbrook

From May 2011:

March 11, 2011 is a day known around the world as the day Japan was hit by a double attack of an earthquake and tsunami. Here at Chamblee High School, thousands of miles away from this foreign country, students are still doing all they can to help.
Junior Mary Lou Ferguson single handedly started an effort at Chamblee to help Japan by gathering the school behind her in an effort to make 1,000 origami cranes as well as by raising money to donate. Ferguson has raised the awareness level of hundreds of students at Chamblee to this current event and has hit her goal of 1,000 cranes. She has also raised over $600 by collecting money to buy t-shirts from a website called “Threadless,” who is donating 100% of all proceeds from the $20 shirts and sending it straight to the Red Cross relief effort in Japan. Ferguson and her younger brother, Liam, will also travel to Japan for almost one month this summer to help cleanup the widespread destruction.
It is a Japanese tradition to make 1,000 origami cranes in order to make a wish, but in this sense, the construction of the paper birds was much more symbolic. Ferguson plans on sending the cranes to a shelter or international high school in Sendai, Japan; the hardest hit city in the original natural disaster.
“The tradition is more to wish people good luck, but in this situation it’s not so much luck, but more like it’s us showing them our support and telling them we’re here for them,” said Ferguson.
Ferguson was not the only Chamblee student leading the movement to help out Japan. Senior Wendy Chuong, President of National Art Honor Society (NAHS) also helped raise awareness, money, and make cranes for the relief effort. NAHS also made cranes, but instead of teaching peers how to construct an origami crane and add it to the mounting pile on the way to 1,000, Chuong had students pay $1 for a crane. They had the option to make a crane or write a message on one, but most students opted to donate money.
The proceeds went directly to the Red Cross effort in Japan, while the majority of the cranes were given to Ferguson to help out her goal of reaching 1,000. NAHS raised over $70 and made over 100 cranes.
“The point more was to raise money, however much money we could,” said Chuong. “I think we wanted to do it because a lot of people in our club care about Japan or have been there, at least recently, and we thought that if everyone helped, then it would all matter no matter how little or how much we raised. I think we just wanted to do something, do anything, to help.”
Freshman literature teacher Leisa Scoggins also involved herself in the efforts to help Japan when a crane construction lesson was conducted in her class during one of the three-hour block periods during junior graduation testing. One of her students, Sounak Das, brought in origami paper and began to lecture the class on how to properly construct a crane.
“We took a break in one of our three hour blocks,” said Scoggins. “He walked us through how to make a crane and we all made one, it was hard!”
Her class donated their cranes straight to Ferguson. Another student in Scoggins’ class brought in a notebook of notes and cards, and Scoggins sent it around to all of her classes to write notes of encouragement to Japan. They are planning on sending it to one of the schools in Japan.
Das learned how to create an origami crane when he was little and the art stuck with him. When he learned there was a movement to make cranes for Japan, Das decided to use his skill and help out in any way he could.
“I feel like whenever something happens, we’re all one world, we’re all one people,” said Das. “Something that happens to one part of the world affects us all, so it was important to help everybody.”
The effort that Chamblee as a whole expelled in order to do something to help Japan was enormous and fast. Around 500 cranes were made in only the first week and Ferguson’s goal of 1,000 was reached in just one month.
“It was amazing, I would go somewhere and random people would have origami paper and be holding cranes and giving them to me,” said Ferguson. “I know I didn’t teach everyone, there was initially a group of about five or ten of us who knew how to make them, and then suddenly there were hundreds of people in the school that knew how to make them.”