Ben Sherwood

Our Work / Ben Sherwood

When Ben Sherwood had a spare moment at work he put it to good use by doing something unusual – folding origami paper cranes.

Ben's goal was to raise $1,000 for the Mental Health Foundation and he recently reached that target. For every dollar he raised, he folded one paper crane. He set up a Give-a-Little page and is thrilled to have reached his goal.

“In Japanese culture, if you fold 1,000 paper cranes you are granted a wish. My wish is that mental illness is something that is openly talked about in society without any discrimination or prejudice,” Ben says.

The 24-year-old has folded about 500 cranes so far. “I’m keeping them in a banana box in my room. When I’ve reached my goal of 1,000 I want to do something special with them like string them together and donate them to an organisation.”

If requested, he also writes the name of a person on the crane he has folded. “I’ve had lots of requests to write the name of a loved one on a crane, so that’s been really special.”

Ben says he’s always been interested in Japanese culture. And prior to his fundraising venture, he folded paper cranes at work with old bits of note paper to decorate his desk.

“Once I decided to fold 1,000 cranes for mental health, I contacted some companies who donated varying shades of high quality, sturdy green paper and someone else offered to cut them to the right size for me.”

Huge support from friends, family and workplace

Ben’s workplace has been incredibly supportive of his venture. Each crane takes a few minutes to do and Ben finds making them relaxing.

He works as a call centre operator at ANZ in Wellington. “I’ve had huge support from friends and family and my workplace has been so generous and encouraging.”

He makes sure he only folds the cranes when there is down time at work. “If I’ve been put on hold or I’m waiting for a call I can pour them out pretty quickly.”

Ben says he’s passionate about mental health awareness and has always wanted to give back.

“I’ve experienced depression and anxiety. I’m on the other side of it now but I still see a therapist and I want to give back.”

He says New Zealand has a staunch, macho culture which can make it hard, particularly for men, to seek help for mental health issues.

“If you’re feeling down, it’s important to find somebody to talk to… It takes one person to know you’re struggling, then it becomes two people, then before you know it, you’ve got lots of people helping you.”

If you would like to learn how to fold a paper crane, follow these instructions and diagrams.