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Donning an original Japanese kimono, University of Iowa senior Danielle Haugland helped show groups of children how to fold origami cranes.

According to a Japanese myth, folding 1,000 cranes will grant the wish of the folder.

And Sunday at the UI Field House, students from the Japanese Cultural Association and Japanese Students and Scholars Club attempted to do that amid loud music and a thick aroma of ethnic food.

The goal was to contribute to a nationwide initiative to send 1 million cranes to Japan — organizers hope 1,000 universities will fold 1,000 cranes each.

“My father is in Sendai,” said UI postdoctoral research scholar Atsushi Yahashiri. “They were not directly affected, but I still wanted to help.”

Hundreds attended the 22nd-annual Celebrating Cultural Diversity Festival put on by a committee appointed by the University of Iowa Diversity Office.

The event has become the second largest non-athletics event sponsored by the university and features cultural dance, sports demonstrations, live music, and diverse food booths.
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And this year, groups used it as an opportunity to raise money, not only for their own clubs but also to donate to recovery efforts in Japan. They aimed to raise $10,000 over time, with part of that money coming from finding a sponsor for each string of cranes.

Members also collected money on the Pedestrian Mall and sold wristbands at West High, Yahashiri said.

The money raised by the two groups will go toward the American Red Cross efforts for relief response to the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that rocked the island nation last month.

Perched on the second-floor track of the Field House overlooking a sea of dancers and food vendors, UI junior Romelle Morris tended to chimichangas and croissants under a banner for the Multi-Cultural Business Student Association in his own fundraising endeavor.

“We’re raising money for our club to finance events later in the year,” he said.

The aim of the daylong festival was to promote diversity and a sense of understanding across cultural borders.

“There’s so much work around diversity, it’s great to do something that is centered on fun,” UI Chief Diversity Officer Georgina Dodge said. “This festival provides that opportunity to see the way others live.”

Festival-goers dressed up in traditional outfits demonstrating their individual cultures. A woman dressed in a traditional 18th-century English high-necked gown handed out fliers on the crowded track. Others wore clothes ranging from African tunics to clinking Indian anklets.

“We wanted to show a lot of different people,” said Kim Carter, a member of the Festival Planning Committee. “Through their performances and their arts, there is a lot to learn about each other.”

The festival, which began in 1990 as a way to bring together those from different backgrounds, featured more than 100 diverse cultures that came together to share customs, traditions, and world perspectives.

“The festival is an opportunity to learn from each other,” Dodge said. “It’s all about starting a dialogue, and once we start talking, we can start bridging some of our differences.”

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