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Two years, 1,000 cranes

With origami, Unitarian youth group supports Ebola fight in Africa

Members of Durango’s Unitarian Universalist Fellowship youth group spent two years folding 1,000 origami cranes without a recipient in mind.

But action picked up fast after they decided to send their handiwork as recognition of the campaign to combat Ebola in Sierra Leone – the hardest hit of three western Africa nations.

Interest among youth group members in folding cranes came when they heard the story of Sadako Sasaki, who lived 1 mile from ground zero when the atomic bomb hit Hiroshima, Japan, on Aug. 6, 1945.

Inspired by Japanese folklore that a wish will be granted to anyone who can fold 1,000 cranes, Sadako folded 644 before she died from the effects of radiation at age 12. In the folklore, cranes live 1,000 years and confer peace, healing and good luck – thus the number of cranes in a gift.

Seven Unitarian youth group members gathered Sunday to work on a second batch of 1,000 cranes. They’ve folded about 350 so far.

Origami means paper folding in Japanese. Crane makers start with a paper about 3 inches square. Any paper that holds a fold will work.

The 1,000 cranes, 50 to a string, were prominently displayed in Freetown on Friday during a community service day organized by the U.S. Embassy. Among activities was an observation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Actress Henrietta Mbawa and singer/actor Jimmy Bangura, members of an Ebola sensitization campaign, addressed the audience.

Hollyn Green, a public affairs officer at the embassy, said the mixed audience of Muslims and Christians was touched by youth group’s gesture of concern.

Community-service day participants spent three hours cleaning the compound around an Ebola treatment center before the program began. The U.S. contributed $3 million to establish the treatment center, Green said.

Youth group adviser Kathleen Adams coordinated the shipment of cranes with Green.

Adams said Doctors Without Borders was the intended recipient of the cranes. But the harried organization didn’t have time to work out the arrangements and referred her to the U.S. Embassy.

Adams said the youth group carries out a project that reflects each of the seven Unitarian Universalist principles.

The cranes correspond to the church’s sixth goal – a world community with peace, liberty and justice for all.

Michael McCorry, Thane McGrath, Kim Pannathorn, Melanie Harshman, Marley Gabel, AJ Swenk, Carter Marshall and Vinny Lopez were folding cranes last Sunday.

“I like to think the hope that we put into the cranes is transferred to the recipient,” said Kim, an exchange student at Durango High School from Thailand.

Marley, a senior at DHS, and one the original crane folders, said the youth group wants to call attention to Unitarian Universalist principles in a busy world.


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