About the Challenge

On Friday, March 11, 2011, a massive earthquake struck Sendai, Japan and resulted in a devastating tsunami that ravaged the coast just 180 miles from Tokyo. In response, Students Rebuild partnered with DoSomething.org and Architecture for Humanity to ensure students worldwide had a way to support their Japanese peers.

The Challenge: Make & Mail 100,000 Cranes

Students Rebuild asked you to make and mail in an origami crane by April 15, 2011, which the Bezos Family Foundation would match with $2 to rebuild in Japan. The goal: 100,000 cranes to represent wishes of support and healing, which would trigger $200,000 from the foundation to fund Architecture for Humanity's Sendai reconstruction efforts in partnership with Japanese designers and builders. According to legend, anyone who folds a thousand paper cranes, which are sacred creatures in Japanese culture, will be granted a wish by a crane.

The Response: More than 2,000,000 Cranes from 38+ Countries!

From Armenia to New Zealand, from rural Kansas to urban Philadelphia, from elementary school classrooms to church basements and community cherry blossom festivals, young people came together to fold paper cranes—and mailed them by the boxful. Students in Haiti folded hundreds of cranes for Japan during the groundbreaking of a newly reconstructed Students Rebuild school in Port au Prince. All told, we tallied an incredible two million cranes—which exceeded our wildest hopes.

When the crane count exceeded the half-million mark, the Bezos Family Foundation decided to double its gift to $400,000 to reflect and further support the outpouring of generosity from young people across the world. Shortly after, an anonymous donor came forward to add $100,000—making a total of $500,000 for Japan!

In February 2013, Students Rebuild correspondent Karl Johnson, of Architecture for Humanity, flew to Tohoku to track the progress on reconstruction in the region--and the impact of the Paper Cranes for Japan Challenge, including the status of the cranes themselves. Click on Karl's intricate handrawn maps below (which chart the worldview of the Paper Cranes for Japan Challenge) to read updates from each of these cities and villages: Motoyoshi, Utatsu, Shizugawa, Kitakami, Upper Ishinomaki, Lower Ishinomaki, Inner Oshika, Outer Oshika, and Sendai. See how your cranes have inspired communities to rebuild. You can also read about how Karl prepared for the journey.






Upper Ishinomaki Outer Oshika peninsula
Lower Ishinomaki Inner Oshika peninsula


More Creativity: Artist Vik Muniz Lends His Ingenuity 

Wowed by the global outpouring of support for Japan, celebrated artist Vik Muniz generously donated his time, vision and creativity to produce a magnificent piece of original artwork using thousands of the cranes.  "It's alchemic," said Vik Muniz, in The New York Times Sunday Magazine story.  "It worked because everyone wanted to help." Here's the poster and how to order one

The Unveiling in Sendai: The Massive Art Installation in Japan

On Friday, January 13, 2012, a massive sculpture was unveiled in Japan’s Sendai Train Station created from 100,000 paper cranes—representative of the more than two million cranes young people contributed worldwide. Designed by the students at the Tohoku University of Art & Design, the sculpture highlighted a three-day public event Jauary 13 – 15 called “Gift by Gift for a Better World,” featuring interactive workshops with several area schools. In the spirit of the challenge, the cranes will go on to become a permanent art installation in a youth facility being rebuilt by Architecture for Humanity in Japan. 

The Reconstruction: Your Investment in Action

Architecture for Humanity and its teams of local pro bono building professionals in Kyoto, Osaka, Sendai and Tokyo worked with organizations and community groups and mobilized around long-term reconstruction efforts. Read more to see the latest progress--see how you took action and how it led to a positive change!