How Volunteers Made a Difference … From a Distance
Apr 19, 2021
Emma Dugas

Two high-school students brought origami cranes and healing wishes to a hospital’s youngest patients—and showed that a small gesture can have a big impact.

Tiffany Le and Trista Pradhan, seniors at Oakland Technical High School and Alameda Science and Technology Institute respectively, were volunteers and student interns at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley, before the pandemic struck. No longer able to visit the hospital, the young women missed the staff, families and newborns that they would normally support in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), where babies born early or ill receive extra care.

Determined to make a positive difference, even from afar, the two decided to make origami decorations to brighten up the Family Room, a multi-purpose space where parents can relax or eat between spending time with their baby.

Tiffany Le shows a string of cranes she made.

We chose to make cranes because the birds are a symbol of hope and healing,” said Le. “I was born with a lot of complications myself, so I understand that some infants need extra care and time before they are healthy enough to go home. I want the parents to see the cranes and get a boost of hope… to sustain them while their babies gain weight and grow stronger.”

While Le had been folding cranes and other origami shapes for years, Pradhan had to learn the art from scratch. “It has been a stressful year, with online school and not being able to see my friends, some days I’ve been really anxious,” Pradhan remarked. “Folding the cranes was calming and this project has helped me become thankful for the time I’ve had with my parents and sister this year.”

Trista Pradhan learned how to make origami cranes as part of volunteer project for the hospital.

Pradhan counted her blessings figuratively and literally this year, reporting that she and Le made a total of 550 cranes for the hospital, plenty to decorate the Family Room and for parents to take home and decorate their child’s nursery. The young women estimate that they spent 50 hours each folding and stringing cranes and they thanked the hospital for purchasing the paper that they used.

In addition to folding cranes, Le and Pradhan are working on providing instructions to families on how to make cranes and decor at home. By providing instructions, siblings and relatives from near and afar can help decorate their newborn’s nursery and create a loving environment.

“I’ve been the Clinical Nurse Specialist at Alta Bates Summit 22 years and I know it’s often the small acts of kindness and support that people remember years after they’ve left our care,” said Alison Brooks. “The hospital staff have been touched by the thoughtfulness of these young women, and I think the families with babies in the NICU have felt the sincere wishes for good health, from all of us.”

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