Paper Cranes for Japan

On March 11, 2011, a massive earthquake struck Sendai, Japan, resulting in a devastating tsunami that ravaged the coast just 180 miles from Tokyo.

In response to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan on March 11th, 2011, Students Rebuild partnered with Architecture for Humanity and’s “Paper Cranes for Japan” campaign to inspire young people worldwide to support their Japanese peers.

Thus, an online challenge was issued to youth: make and mail-in an origami crane by April 15, 2011. Each crane received was matched with a $2 donation by the Bezos Family Foundation. The goal was to make 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.

The response was an astounding: 2 million cranes from young people in 38+ countries and all 50 U.S. states. 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 during the groundbreaking of a newly reconstructed Students Rebuild/Architecture for Humanity school in Port au Prince.

The outpour of support worldwide resulted in a total of $500,000 for recovery and rebuilding in Japan. The money raised by the Paper Cranes for Japan campaign was directly used to support the reconstruction of youth facilities in small towns and villages in Tohoku, where there are few resources to support community rebuilding efforts.

To date, Architecture for Humanity has provided design and construction services to a number of youth-focused projects in Japan, including: Kitakami community market+youth center, Ohya Green Sports Park, Shizugawa Judo Juko sports facility, and Paper Crane sculpture/workshop. Each project has made its own unique impact: as a result beneficiaries vary from 500 individuals [Kitakami project] to 15 future Judo superstars [Judo Juko facility].

In the spirit of the challenge, 100,000 cranes have become a permanent art installation in two schools and a community center in Sendai, Japan. This huge display of cranes is representative of the 2 million+ cranes contributed by young people worldwide. Architecture for Humanity provided design and technical support for the Paper Cranes Sculpture, including graphics, media/web presence, as well as logistics, partnering with Japanese schools, organizations and sculpture host locations. Through their network they developed and hosted sculpture fabrication, its unveiling and youth workshop, which engaged 300+ Sendai youth.

Architecture for Humanity brought together a collaborative group of artists, designers, and community activists. The capstone to all of these efforts was artist Vik Muniz who generously donated his time, his vision and his creativity to produce a magnificent piece of original artwork using thousands of the cranes.

“It’s alchemic,” Muniz tells the NY Times Sunday Magazine (Aug 21, 2011). “It worked because everyone wanted to help.”

More About This Charity




Most Effective Awareness Campaign by a Charity


Architecture for Humanity


Through a global network of building professionals, Architecture for Humanity brings design, construction and development services to communities in need.


  • This Achievement raised $500,000
  • This charity raised $3,394,730 in the past year
  • This Achievement helped 1,000 people
  • This charity helped 82,000 people in the past year
  • 2 million paper cranes were distributed. Community market and youth center for 500 youth. Green sports park for 300 youth.

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38 countries worldwide

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