"Crayons for peace" to be sent to children in Sierra Leone

by Kyosuke Mizukawa, Staff Writer

“The Mothers’ Peace Movement,” a Hiroshima citizens’ group led by Hiroko Ohara, has begun an effort to donate crayons and pencils to children in the African country of Sierra Leone. The campaign, called “Crayons for Peace Project,” is calling on Hiroshima citizens to contribute crayons and pencils.

Along with new items, the group will also accept used pencils and incomplete sets of crayons. The contributions will be entrusted to a student from Sierra Leone now attending Hiroshima University who will return home in December. The gifts of pencils and crayons will then be distributed to children through schools.

Sierra Leone was plagued by civil war from 1991 to 2002 and, due to poverty, is considered to have one of the world’s shortest life expectancies. Mariko Komatsu, 32, a resident of Higashi Hiroshima City and a graduate student at Hiroshima University, is also involved in the project. She was sent to Sierra Leone by the Japan Committee of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to take part in designing a curriculum to train teachers.

The citizens’ group was inspired to launch the project after a member of the group learned about the episode in which school supplies were sent to Hiroshima from the United States two years after the atomic bombing. In return, the students of Honkawa Elementary School in downtown Hiroshima created drawings and calligraphy and then sent their artwork to the United States. Some former students from Honkawa Elementary School will also lend their support to the project.

“We would like to bring the joy of drawing pictures to the children of Sierra Leone,” Ms. Ohara said, appealing for contributions.

(Originally published on August 25, 2009)