"Amanda Woomer has made so many tiny colored paper cranes that now, as she carries on a conversation, she doesn’t notice her hands meticulously completing each fold to produce a finished crane.
"In fact, she only notices what she is doing when she sets the finished crane on the table and starts on another. The intricate piece of origami is roughly the size of a matchbook and very delicate. In two minutes, she has transformed a 3 inch by 3 inch scrap of paper into a work of art.
"Woomer works alone and dedicates a few hours a couple times a week to creating her paper art. On average, she spends eight or nine hours a week building what has become an army of cranes. The colors are vivid and the cranes are overflowing off the table. The completed birds now take up two boxes in her room. Despite the work, Woomer folds and folds and then folds some more. She is folding for her friends and for people she’s never met.
"When Japan was rocked by an earthquake and tsunami, her first thought was of her past roommate, a foreign exchange student from Japan.
""I knew she was there and I knew that she was in northern Japan. I knew that she was somehow affected by the earthquake and the tsunami," Woomer said.
"After she discovered her former roommate and friends in Japan were safe, Woomer’s mind shifted gears. How could she help? She decided to make cranes, a symbol of peace and good luck, and collect donations for the relief effort. For $1, someone can sponsor a crane, complete with the sponsor’s name or a message to the people of Japan. Her goal is to fold 1,000 cranes and collect $1,000.
"In Japanese culture, the crane is revered as a symbol of peace, longevity and good fortune. It is customary to fold a thousand paper cranes when making a special wish.
"Japan is close to her heart. Her grandfather served in the Marines in Japan during World War II. He fell in love with the people and culture, eventually living in Japan for several years after the war. That love and appreciation of the culture just rubbed off on her at a young age, she said.
""Currently my wish is that Japan is just able to rebuild itself and overcome this," Woomer said.
"Folding cranes does get monotonous after a of couple hours, but for Woomer, standing by and doing nothing is something she cannot tolerate.
""I want to do something and folding a thousand cranes, I feel like it’s the least that I can do," Woomer said. "It kind of seems like a small task in comparison."
"In two weeks Woomer has produced about 350 cranes and raised $350. The finished cranes will be strung together on a thread. All the money will go to the Red Cross for its relief efforts in Japan. Woomer said she wants to take the completed cranes with her to Japan sometime in summer 2012. She plans to place them at the Hiroshima Children’s Memorial, a spot in Japan that is adorned with thousands of cranes.
"Her trip, however, depends on how reconstruction develops in Japan. For now, the junior anthropology major is focused on her goal of 1,000 cranes and $1,000. She is striving to complete the cranes by May, but said it could take longer. This isn’t the first time Woomer has set out to fold a thousand cranes. On her 16th birthday, Woomer starting making a thousand cranes for fun. She finished the project last January, after four years.
""This time around I feel like I have more motivation than just doing it for fun, so hopefully it will be done within a few months," Woomer said.
"To meet her deadline, Woomer recognizes she might need to recruit help. While folding the cranes is tedious, Woomer said the hardest part is stringing them together. The birds are divided into 25 strings with 40 birds on each string. When finished, the cranes will stretch more than the equivalent of six stories. For now she is content to work away at the project in her spare time.
"The Tonawanda native said the crane project isn’t her "first time at the rodeo." In fact, Woomer has helped raise almost $1,000 before. After 9/11 she spearheaded a fundraiser at her school called "Change for Change." She and other students placed buckets for people to donate their spare change. Woomer considers helping others something that’s in her genes. Her parents and grandparents have been active in all sorts of community service.
""Just helping others and reaching out to others has been an active aspect of our family in a way," Woomer said.