Supporting communities, and the spirit of volunteerism, are a big part of Wells Fargo’s Vision and Values. Giving back to others takes many forms…since there are countless ways to make a difference in the world.
News of calamities and disasters can make us feel discouraged, so I’d like to share a story which reminds us that positive things can happen, even when disaster strikes. At such moments, the goodwill of one person captures our attention (and our hearts), and can make a dramatic difference. When people talk, great things can happen: This story begins with a conversation between a man who works for Wells Fargo, and his wife.
In Charlotte, North Carolina, Wells Fargo team member Satoshi Watanabe and his family had a heartfelt wish to show support for those impacted by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Satoshi had an inspiration to fold 1,000 origami cranes and send them to victims of the disaster. In Japan, Senbadsuru, (a group of 1,000 origami paper cranes held together by strings) is a popular gift. An ancient Japanese legend promises that anyone who folds 1,000 origami cranes will be granted a wish, such as long life or recovery from illness or injury. Watanabe’s wife had a broader vision. She suggested involving others to create many more origami cranes. Why not thousands?
Wells Fargo team members across the country joined the effort to fold the cranes. With step-by-step instruction, a person might be deemed a “genius” if they could fold one in five minutes; most people require much more time. Regardless, many people took up the challenge for this worthwhile cause. Team members heard about the project and started telling others, who also pitched in. From the initial 1,000 cranes Watanabe and his family wanted to make, many more conversations stretched the goal—fold 10,000 cranes.
The momentum continued, as more people talked with colleagues, friends, and family. By the end of the campaign, 30,000 cranes were made. So many team members across the Company stepped up to assist. In addition, Wells Fargo Foundations resopnded with $1 per crane, a $30,000 donation to the Red Cross.
Before sending the cranes to Japan, the Wells Fargo History Museum in San Francisco hosted “For Japan With Love” in July 2011, a ceremony displaying the 30,000 cranes. Watanabe shared photos and facts of the devastation from the disaster, and shared insights and testimonies on how the Japanese people pulled together to help one another in the aftermath. He then personally delivered some of the bundles of origami cranes, and volunteered with disaster recovery efforts while in Japan. His description of the experience touches the heart:
“What I saw there was unimaginable. The damages were so significant and widespread…People still living in shelters where the smell is extremely bad as they cannot remove dead fish. It will take years before they will be able to recover from the disaster… When I delivered the two bundles of thousand cranes to the victims I did tell them that those cranes are filled with a lot of hearts and souls from the people in the U.S.”
Americans take time in May to honor and celebrate Asian Pacific Heritage. Wells Fargo has a long history with the Asian community, including some fascinating connections with the Japanese since the Nineteenth Century. (Find more about that here.) Today, Wells Fargo has over 270,000 team members across the U.S. and in 35 countries. (That’s a lot of hearts and souls!)