HOLYOKE – One ambitious fourth grader at Peck Full Service Community School on Northampton Street set her sights on a special goal this spring – to create a flock of 1,000 paper cranes.
Sister Jane Morrissey, SSJ, who works part-time as a school tutor, had shared a story with students including 9-year-old Ariadnna Ramos of Sadako Sasaki, a Japanese girl who was 2-years-old when the atomic bomb was dropped in 1945 near her home in Hiroshima, Japan.
Ramos then read more about Sasaki and learned she died of leukemia at the age of 12 folding origami paper into cranes, hoping for her wish to come true. In Japanese culture, anyone who folds 1,000 origami cranes will be granted a wish. Sasaki’s wish was – “This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace in the world.” This wish is enshrined as part of a statue of Sasaki holding a golden crane in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, which continues to be a leading symbol of the impact of nuclear war.
“After I told the students about the story behind the 1,000 paper cranes, Ariadnna said ‘We have to do 1,000 too like Sadako,’” Morrissey said during an interview with Reminder Publications.
For children of all ages, peace in the world and in one’s community is also of utmost importance.
“There are people doing bad stuff and we want peace in Holyoke,” Jimmy Serrano, 10, who is also a classmate of Ramos, said. Serrano proudly beamed next to a table of paper cranes, and he said he looks forward to making more before the school year ends.
“I asked my tutor to teach me how to make the paper cranes because I wanted to learn and help,” he added.
Mary McLaughlin, a part-time tutor, has supported Morrissey this spring with the project and also has taught children how to create the colorful paper cranes. McLaughlin also worked with Ramos to write a proposal to Principal Justin Cotton detailing how the “Peck Community” should join the national effort of Campaign Nonviolence to offer 70,000 origami cranes for peace in Sadako’s memory.
Just after lunch on the afternoon of May 20, a host of children were in the library looking at the collection of paper cranes on display. A file cabinet in the library serves as a “nest” for the safe keeping of the paper cranes.
Ramos noted that she felt “nervous and happy” at the same time when she first approached Cotton about the project.
“I said to our principal that we have this idea of making at least 700 paper cranes and we told him the story of the Japanese girl,” Ramos said. “Once we have all of our cranes – we will wish for peace.”
Since the flock is currently close to 800, Ramos and her classmates have decided they want to make 1,000 and are recruiting their friends to make it happen. Fourth grade students who are currently spending time in the library on the project include Juan Rivera, Jovanni Feliciano, Itzamar Torres, Dashari Malpica, Miranda Rivera, Khalil Williams, Katelyn Roque, Ashley Arthur, Jessenia Feliciano, Nashalie Reyes, Alexandra Osorio, Carla Rodriguez Gonzalez, Pedro Malave, Destiny Lougee, Christopher Peraza and Serrano.
“I’ve made 10 so far and will be making more so we can have peace,” Jovanni Feliciano said.
Cotton noted how proud he was of Ramos and her motivation to put herself in the story of the Japanese girl.
“She was excited to share the idea with me,” Cotton said. “She was sure of herself and sold me on the idea.”
Since that initial meeting, Ramos has made announcements on the intercom system, and has told the story of Sasaki to as many students as possible. As news of the project spread across the school, tutors, students and friends joined in the effort. In addition, students who have finished early during their MCAS sessions have also made the paper cranes.
Within the past week, a letter was sent to Masahiro Sasaki, Sadako’s brother, now 73, and enclosed one golden paper crane in recognition of the one in his sister’s outstretched arms in the peace park.
“The count draws close to 800,” Morrissey said. “Two hundred to go.”