(This article appears at the front page of Cultural News August 2011 issue)
Following the March 11 tsunami disaster in Japan, employees of Wells Fargo bank were looking for a way to show their support to the victims, beyond donating money.
In Japan, the folding and stringing together of a thousand origami cranes is said to bring the recipient good luck and help overcome challenges or difficulties.
In the middle of April when a member of Asian Connection, an employee resource network at Wells Fargo, learned about this symbolism of the origami cranes and proposed the origami cranes for the Japanese tsunami victims, thousands of Wells Fargo employees across the county started folding.
Their effort was supported and accelerated by Wells Fargo’s decision to donate $1 per crane.
The number of origami cranes totaled 30,000, far beyond all expectation.
The spearhead of this origami crane project was Japan-born Satoshi Watanabe, Wells Fargo’s international banking executive stationed in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“What started out as a small project among Asian Connection members quickly took on a life of its own as it gained support and momentum across the entire company,” said Mr. Watanabe who is also the president of Asian Connection. Wells Fargo & Company has 280,000 employees in the U.S., and Asian Connection consists of 3,500 members including Asian and non-Asian banking staff.
In the middle of June, Mr. Watanabe went to Rikuzen-Takata in Iwate Prefecture to help clean debris, and delivered 2,000 origami cranes to Ishinomaki in Miyagi Prefecture. “After my recent visit to Japan, I have no doubt that our efforts will serve as an inspiration for those who were affected by the tragedy,” said Mr. Watanabe.
On July 19 at Wells Fargo History Museum in Downtown San Francisco, 30,000 origami cranes strung together were displayed at the event where representatives of Wells Fargo donated $30,000 to the American Red Cross. One week after this event, these origami cranes were delivered to the tsunami victims in Japan.