Brooklyn College Student Creates 1,000 Origami Cranes for Child Victims of Domestic and Sexual Violence
Posted on: Monday, March 26, 2012
Brooklyn collegian creates ancient Japanese emblems of luck for child victims of domestic violence: Damien Bielak presents 1,000 tiny multi-colored origami cranes to Harlem's Safe Horizon Child Advocacy Center
New York Daily News
Damien Bielak’s cranes are tiny, a bit bent, but beautiful, like the people for whom he made them.
The Greenpoint, Brooklyn, resident has folded 1,000 of the two-inch long, multi-colored origami cranes especially for the child victims of domestic and sexual violence.
“It’s not worth a lot of money, but my love for doing this is genuine,” Bielak said. “I’m using what talent I have to help people.”
Last week Bielak presented his creations to Tiana Stowers Pearson, senior director of Safe Horizon’s Manhattan Child Advocacy Center, which “investigates all the severe physical and sexual abuse cases involving children in Manhattan.”
The center, located on Park Ave. near 121st St. in Harlem, actually houses five agencies: Safe Horizon, which provides victim advocacy and mental health services for victims and their families; the NYPD’s Manhattan Child Abuse Squad, part of the Manhattan Special Victims Unit; an on-site assistant district attorney from Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance’s office; two Administration for Children’s Services instant response team units; and a physician from Columbia University.
“Safe Horizon’s role is to help the agencies coordinate their investigations,” Pearson said. “Prior to having a center like this, a child would have to relive the horror of their story between 11 and 22 times because they would be taken to each agency individually to tell what happened.
“But here the child is interviewed once, with one person in the room with the child while the rest of the team watches via closed circuit television in another room,” she said. “It allows the child tell their story one time. It also allows us to act very quickly.”
ACS is involved only when the child is abused by a family member, Pearson said. In those cases detectives bring the accused in.
Open since 2009, the center — and there is one in each borough except the Bronx — last year handled just under 900 cases, which was a decrease from 2010.
Unfortunately, Pearson said, numbers for the first quarter of 2012 are way up. “Already our numbers are double what they were last year this time,” she said. “We really don’t know why.”
Glancing around the bright reception room with its lay area and stacks of Lego blocks, Pearson said “We want the kids to feel comfortable, because it is kind of like a refuge when they get here. Bielak’s cranes gives us a story to tell the kids and a person for them to align with. It’s just wonderful.”
Bielak, 19, and a freshman at St. Francis College in downtown Brooklyn, has been folding cranes for five years, since a Murry Bergtraum High School teacher taught him to do it. Each bird takes about two minutes, and he’ll fold them while watching television or just hanging out.
“I’ve always like art,” Bielak said. “Once the semester was done, he wanted us to donate all of our cranes. We didn’t make 1,000, but he made a lot. So I thought if he could do it, so could I.”
Cranes are emblems of luck and benevolence in Japanese culture. Bielak said he capped the number at 1,000 to follow the example of Sadako Sasaki, an 11-year-old girl who, according to legend and several books, developed leukemia after being exposed to radiation from the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima during World War II.
Sasaki set out to make 1,000 origami cranes but died before reaching that number. In her honor, friends finished the task after her death.
“They buried the cranes with her,” Bielak said. “It’s a good story.”
This is the third time he has done 1,000 cranes, the magic number which supposedly grants those who receive them a wish. He had a friend bring the first thousand to the center to give to children brought there. He sent the second batch to Haiti after the earthquake, and brought these to the center himself.
Bielak said he feels a special bond for the center because he has also been the victim of domestic violence, which he declined to discuss.
“I want people to know we should use our abilities and talents to benefit others,” he said. “Even simple things can make a big difference in people’s lives. Because of my ability to use my hands I can make cranes for people.
“I’m using what I have to help people.”
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