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craneAfter the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Rena Ogura (II) wanted to help the people in her home country. She and Tetsu Higuchi (II) set up collection boxes around campus and began collecting pennies. The idea was based on a popular fundraiser at Rena’s middle school in Japan called, “One Yen Makes A Difference.” Each student would collect yens in a milk carton that would ultimately be donated to local charities.

“At first people at Milton didn’t understand why it was just one penny, but the point was that even small amounts of money can make a big difference and help,” says Rena. “My family was safe in Tokyo, but I felt powerless knowing something awful was going on at home and I wanted to offer support.”

Rena and Tetsu’s efforts synched with another movement brought to light by faculty member Paul Archer.  This Seattle-based fund raising effort, called, was collecting paper cranes to generate donations for Japan relief efforts. For each crane the non-profit received, their foundation donated $2.  In Japanese culture, cranes are a symbol of hope and they have become a symbolic way to respond to crisis.

Class II students, Robbins House boarders, and student members of the Asian Society embraced the project.  In practice sessions, students learned how to fold the origami into cranes. Milton students made over 1,000 cranes, which Mr. Archer shipped to Seattle. And with their collection boxes, Rena and Tetsu raised almost $1,500, which they are giving to the Japan Society in Boston. This organization works with four NGOs in Japan.

“It was really nice to be able to do something. I felt so confident as an individual that one small community could make a change,” says Rena. “At the beginning of the project, I had to make an announcement at morning assembly. At first I was so nervous, but the fact that I was working for greater cause gave me this power. I wasn’t afraid anymore; I knew why I was doing this.”