Every December, San Francisco City Hall displays a huge holiday tree in its rotunda. The tree is decorated with thousands of origami cranes and stars inscribed with people’s wishes and hopes for a better world. The tree is called The World Tree of Hope.
Fifteen members of San Quentin’s American Indian Culture and Spiritual Group (AICSG) have volunteered to create and assemble hundreds of Origami Cranes for this great cause. The group of volunteers meets at the Interfaith Chapel every Thursday night, their “culture night” as it’s called, with the goal of giving back to the community.
San Quentin self-help volunteer Jun Hamamoto sponsors the craft-making experience. Borey Ai and Hamamoto taught origami to the class.
On one recent Thursday, staff member Vivienne Florendo also stopped by to help. AICSG origami project coordinators Tony Alto and Andrew organized and managed the occasion by ensuring tables, chairs and materials were available to the volunteers.
The Spiritual Group divided into several smaller groups to construct the cranes. Hamamoto and Florendo also created cranes of their own for the tree-decorating project.
This is the first year Native Americans from San Quentin have assisted in The World Tree of Hope project but they have participated in other projects, such as crafting origami cranes, stars, birds, and rabbits, which were handed out to the kids at Oakland’s Children Hospital.
For several months, Hamamoto has been working with the American Indian Culture and Spiritual Group coordinating their Thursday night program.
“This is our second origami project. We spent two evenings making cards for kids at Children’s Hospital—one evening learning origami basic models and one evening folding origami for the children,” said Hamamoto.
Alto and Andrew told the San Quentin News that all the crafts constructed and donated to Children’s Hospital were chemical and toxin free.
“We are mindful of the materials we use to make the cranes and other items we donate,” said co- coordinator Andrew. “Some of those kids are real sick, and we want to make sure they receive items that are safe and healthy and that will hopefully bring smiles to their faces.”
“Origami is meditative,” commented Hamamoto. “When you concentrate on folding, you are in the present moment. I learned origami from my parents as a child.”
According to Hamamoto, “The group loved the first origami project and asked for more. This made me deeply happy. When I was asked by Jeff Cotter of the World Rainbow Fund to contribute this year, I thought it was a great opportunity for the AICSG to be involved, giving them an opportunity to give back to the community.”
The Rainbow World-Fund (rainbowfund.org/tree), which sponsors The World Tree of Hope event, calls it a “symbol of global unity.” The organization accepts wishes from anyone, which will be printed out, folded into an origami crane, and placed on the tree.
Founded in 2000, the World Rainbow Fund is an all-volunteer international humanitarian service agency based in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) and friends community. The fund works to help people who suffer from hunger, poverty, disease, natural disaster, oppression, and war by raising awareness and funds to support relief efforts around the world.
RWF’s philosophy is that we are all “One Human Family” and that we are living in a time that tells us that our survival on this planet is dependent on us all giving more to each other.
When asked what it means to the men of AICSG to assist in this event, coordinator Alto said, “It’s great. It’s an opportunity for our community to help out fellow human beings in a small but sincere way.”
As San Quentin’s AICSG members labored on twisting, turning and shaping material into holiday ornaments replete with their hopes and wishes for the New Year, their sincerity and dedication was apparent. “We wanted to do our part to help others during the holidays. This means a lot to us,” said one volunteer while concentrating fully on his creative task.