SAN FRANCISCO, CALIF., November 22, 2007 — Thousands of white origami cranes will “migrate” west this winter and perch themselves on the branches of San Francisco’s Tree of Hope, in an effort to promote peace and humanity across the city and the world. Each bird will carry a message of hope or a hopeful wish for the future, while brilliantly decorating a 20-foot Christmas tree in the middle of the San Francisco City Hall Rotunda. The December 5 tree-lighting event, organized by the Rainbow World Fund, is to encourage peace, love and humanitarianism for San Franciscans and people all over the world — and to benefit the work of Africare.
“We are gathering hopes and wishes from people around the globe and giving them wings,” noted Rainbow World Fund Executive Director Jeff Cotter. “We create the tree as a way to inspire hope and encourage people to really think about what they would like for the future of the world and as a way for them to come together and express their wishes and intentions.”
Those expressions of “wishes and intentions” will unite on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2007, at a tree-lighting ceremony in the San Francisco City Hall. The ceremony will begin with a concert by the San Francisco Boys Chorus at 5:30 p.m., followed by the tree lighting at 6:00. Once lit, the tree will display the brilliant origami cranes.
The Tree of Hope Project was inspired by a little girl who lived and died nearly half a century ago. Sadako Sasaki was two years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Several years later, suffering from the “disease of the bomb”— leukemia — Sadako learned of a legend that would grant one wish to the person who, in the Japanese origami tradition, folds 1,000 cranes. She started folding but died 356 cranes short of her goal. Her classmates folded the rest in her honor, and all 1,000 were buried with her. From that moment, after Sadako’s courageous story had spread internationally, the crane became a symbol of world peace.
Today, children and families from around the globe, including those in Belgium, Spain and Taiwan (among other nations), have joined efforts to decorate the Tree of Hope with their written wishes. U.S. Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, as well as author Danielle Steel, are among the prominent people who have sent wishes.
All proceeds from the December 5 event will be donated to Africare. In addition, the ceremony hopes to illuminate an issue affecting the economic development of thousands of rural communities on the African continent: the lack of electricity and artificial light.
According to the United Nations Department of Public Information, it was estimated in 2004 that no more than 20% of the population in Africa (excluding South Africa and Egypt) had direct access to electricity. That figure falls to 2% in rural areas. Lack or insufficiency of electricity restricts educational opportunities for children and hampers overall rural economic development.
“Children have fewer chances, if any, to study at night — and entire communities are forced to slow or halt their daily activities [at sundown] without a dependable and affordable source of light,” noted Africare President Julius E. Coles. “These are challenges that can be overcome with innovative partnerships between the public and organizations like Africare.”
Through the Tree of Hope Project, the Rainbow World Fund hopes to bring new resources and attention to an Africare pilot program in Kuanza Sul province, Angola. The program uses solar flashlights — which are durable, waterproof and renewable — to provide affordable and dependable energy to the province’s rural communities. In Kuanza Sul’s Kibala district, one solar flashlight goes to each family with a primary school child who has advanced at least to the third grade level. School teachers and village chiefs also will receive flashlights as a way of supervising their use in the communities. Including manufacturing, shipping and progrm administration, one flashlight costs $14.
Founded in 2000, Rainbow World Fund (RWF) is an international relief agency based in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered (LGBT) and friends community. RWF helps people who suffer from hunger, poverty, disease, war oppression and natural disaster. RWF provides a platform an a united voice for LGBT compassion and concern to be seen and heard throughout the world.