After most schools transitioned to remote learning post the first week of in-person classes, the St. John’s Japanese club officers and advisors worked together to start new club activities for virtual meets. This fall, not only were annual club fundraisers cancelled due to social distancing, but they also added the challenge of keeping students engaged in online club meetings. With the stay-at-home orders in effect on Guam since mid-August, none of the students and teachers were venturing further than their four walls or place of residence.
The St. John’s Japanese club officers checked in to see how they could create an activity that promotes Japanese culture but also find a fun distraction for students during this isolating and stressful time. While doctors, nurses, and other health care workers in hospitals and emergency rooms responded with bravery and resilience during the pandemic, students also wanted to demonstrate their appreciation to the frontline workers. The St. John’s Japanese club members revived the art of origami folding into their appreciation initiative. According to the ancient Japanese legend, anyone who folded a thousand cranes will be granted a wish – like long life or recovery from illness – by a crane. As part of the Japanese club, each student folded around ten cranes per week with the accessible colored papers at their home. Thank goodness the Japanese club members and advisors accepted the adjustments to club events and learned how to fold cranes quickly.
Each member folded around fifty origami cranes. Afterward, the cranes were color coordinated and strung together to form the “senbazuru,” which translates to a thousand origami cranes. The finalized two pieces, each with five hundred cranes strung together symbolizes harmony and togetherness. The diligence of each Japanese club member is displayed through the cacophony of origami colors. The Japanese club members hope their efforts will be seen by the local community in support of frontline workers and the battle against the novel coronavirus; that no one stands alone in this pandemic. One of the Japanese club advisors, Harada Sensei voiced her appreciation for the students who participated in folding the cranes and said, “The students put their hearts into folding the cranes, and we hope that the hospital workers will see that when they receive our donation.” Senior Olivia Wen, who brought up the idea of crafting the senbazuru, also wanted to thank the upper school art teacher, Mr. Skvaril, for his assistance and guidance in the creation process. Wen says, “We worked with what we had and managed to put together everyone’s cranes in a convenient form for the workers.”
The St. John’s Japanese club members have taken part in a stress relief initiative for COVID-19 by folding a thousand cranes to send to multiple local hospitals as appreciation gifts. The cranes are hung by string to symbolize the unity of our community. The cranes are presented to individual hospital wings to thank them for all the work they have done to sustain and help the growing number of patient cases on Guam. Most importantly, the St. John’s Japanese club president, Taiga Simon, said “We want to show our support not only to the patients struggling with COVID-19 but also to our frontliners and health workers who are helping to combat this pandemic. We hope that this gesture will convey our best wishes and our appreciation as this public health threat continues.”
Japanese club advisor, Stenson Sensei, also believes that folding the cranes left a positive impact on the students. “When folding, the students are contributing to a cause bigger than themselves and are aware of their impact.” Harada Sensei added that she believed the folding of a thousand origami cranes is meditative for the students. Taking the time to fold origami paper over-and-under, across-and-below is a timeless Japanese tradition that the club members have been able to experience this year and onward. Origami folding is an original form of expressing one’s self and showing gratitude during our trying times.
The St. John’s Japanese club hopes to promote togetherness. The central idea behind the cranes and Japanese Club’s future services are in “heiwa wo inoru,” which translates to “we are praying for you.” The St. John’s Japanese club members yearn to inspire the everyday healthcare workers to continue in their courageous efforts and stay healthy during this time. As students, we hold the responsibility to a brighter future and hope for the best; taking part in crafting art as an effort to encourage our true fighters of the pandemic will surely help us navigate our foreign and distanced lives as present.