Paper cuts are a small sacrifice for young Sydney artist Rachel who is folding 1000 cranes for a major visual arts project to honour her cousin’s cheeky spirit and help the world find a cure for cancer.
The 17-year-old high school student is searching for the hand-written stories of 1000 people touched by this illness, but she needs them in Australia by April 20.
“My inspiration for my artwork includes my cousin Joel, who died from cancer when he was nine, the story of Sadako and the Thousand Cranes and my experiences with Japan,” Rachel said.
An ancient Japanese legend promises that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish by Japan’s mystical crane.
“Young Sadako Sasaki developed leukaemia after the Hiroshima bombings so she set out to make 1000 cranes for her wish to live,” Rachel said. “Although she died before she could complete them, her strength and hope inspired me, as did Joel’s fight against neuroblastoma, a type of children’s cancer.
“Joel was a wonderful boy who teased me lots – I remember him stealing my roller blades so I couldn’t play without him when he was in a wheelchair. My wish is that a cure for cancer can be found and I hope that 1000 people will join me in making this wish by raising cancer awareness.”
Rachel, who speaks Japanese, learnt to fold cranes in 2010 when a Japanese host sister visited. She describes the process as therapeutic and even took 100 cranes to the Hiroshima Peace Park when she visited Japan last year and placed them on the Sadako Peace Memorial.
“I love the Japanese people and their way of doing things. Even if you can only say one word in Japanese, it means the world to them that you tried to speak their language,” she said.
Although it only takes Rachel a couple of minutes to fold a crane, the biggest part of her project will be connecting all 1000 cranes together. “I am unsure at this stage as to what I will do with them but probably some sort of sculpture,” she said.
An avid reader, Rachel loves reading books by Nicolas Sparks and Jane Austen and also fantasies such as Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings. “I also enjoy amazing writers like Shakespeare, whom no one seems to like studying in my class, and other great novels,” she said.
“The book, Sadako and the Thousand Cranes, reminded me of my cousin’s strength throughout his cancer treatments – he always tried to smile and be as joyful as possible even when he was going through hard times.”
Rachel knows the cure for cancer is a tough journey ahead, but she believes it will happen with a lot of hard work by researchers and people supporting them. “I do believe dreams can come true but not without hard work towards the goal,” she said.
“You can’t sit back expecting everything to fall into place. Pushing yourself will see times when you fall down but it is only by getting back up that you learn how to jump even higher.”
People wishing to contribute a cancer-related story or message to Rachel’s project should email her via rachel DOT thompson AT optusnet DOT com DOT au – stories should be hand-written on coloured paper, 7.5cm x 7.5cm.
Cheryse’s note: My brother Patrick died from a brain tumour when he was 11, the year before I was born. I think of him on his birthday, April 9, each year and wonder at the life he may have led, if his world hadn’t been cut short. This blog is dedicated to Rachel and Joel, and also Pat and my parents, who are truly amazing people.