Tree of Hope 2009

A Global Holiday Project Promoting Peace, Love & Humanitarianism
by Rainbow World Fund

A Symbol of Global Unity and a Gift to the World from the LGBT Community


The World Tree of Hope is the largest origami decorated holiday tree in the world, standing nearly 23 feet tall and decorated with over 12,000 origami cranes and stars each hand folded and inscribed with wishes for the future of the world.


The World Tree of Hope is created each year as a symbol of global unity to promote peace, love and humanitarianism. The tree is created by Rainbow World Fund as a gift from the LGBT and friends community to the world. The tree is displayed in the Rotunda of San Francisco City Hall.


Designed as the world's most unique holiday tree, people world wide can help decorate the tree by simply sharing their wish for the future. At the invitation of the Mayor of San Francisco and Rainbow World Fund wishes are sent in from around the world by mail and online at The wishes are then printed and folded into origami cranes by an extremely diverse team of volunteers including members of San Francisco's LGBT and Japanese American communities, survivors of the Hiroshima atomic bomb, local children, and life-sentence prisoners from San Quentin. The origami "crane wishes" are then placed on the tree. Over three hundred people come together, donating over 2,500 hours to create the tree.


Notable wish contributors include: President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Dame Jane Goodall, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, Frances Moore Lappe, Arianna Huffington, Mariela Castro, Isabel Allende, Shirley Temple Black and Courtney Cox. Many children also contribute wishes to the tree. See sampling of wishes at With so many people coming together to create the tree It is easy to understand why it is dubbed by many as "the people's tree".

The first Tree of Hope was created in 2006 and was displayed at then Mayor Gavin Newsom's request in the Rotunda of San Francisco City Hall. That location has become the home for the tree. The tree is on display in City Hall for 30 days during the month of December where is it seen daily by thousands of visitors from around the world. The Tree of Hope was renamed The World Tree of Hope in 2010 in recognition of the global response to the project. The tree has the distinction of being the world's largest annual origami tree and in 2010 was name by American Express Traveler as number three of the Top Ten Christmas Trees in the world.

"The World Tree of Hope is an exciting community project and a chance for the City of San Francisco's compassion to be seen and heard throughout the world promoting peace and humanitarianism."  - Mayor Gavin Newsom (2004 -2011).    

The World Tree of Hope, is created as a way to inspire hope and encourage people to think about what they would like for the future of the world. The project recognizes the needs and desires of individuals to participate in the global community and offers a way for people from all over the world to come together to express their hopes and intention. Through developing the Tree as a global art project and teaching tool; participation encourages individuals to experience the power of creation and individual action.  During the final art display, the general public and Tree of Hope participants see the impact of how each crane, together with the cranes of many others, can become transformed into something beautiful—beyond the scope of one individual's efforts.

"The World Tree of Hope joins together individuals of diverse cultures, points of view, spiritual beliefs, socioeconomic backgrounds and sexual identities, and taps into two of our most powerful resources – the human mind and heart – to give individuals a way to join together to express our hopes and intentions for the future of our global community." – Jeff Cotter, founder, Rainbow World Fund

The project also challenges people to get further involved and turn to their intentions into actions to help heal the world by supporting a variety of projects that are making a difference. 

The tree is inspired by the story of Sadako Sasaki, the little girl whose journey and death several years after the bomb was dropped in Hiroshima, transformed the crane into a symbol of world peace. In 1955, the folded crane became known as a symbol of peace when the world learned the story of Sadako Sasaki. Sadako was two when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.  She was home, about one mile from ground zero. Several years later, she developed the disease of the bomb – leukemia.  While in the hospital, a friend brought her an origami crane and taught Sadako the Japenese legend that the folder of 1000 cranes is granted a wish.  Sadako started folding but grew weaker with time and passed away 356 cranes short of her goal.  Her classmates folded the rest.  All 1000 were buried with Sadako.  On the wings of the cranes, Sadako would write messages.  One deeply profound message read, "I will write peace on your wings and you will fly all over the world." Her hope, strength and determination have inspired millions.


Rainbow World Fund (RWF) is an all-volunteer international humanitarian service agency based in the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and friends community. RWF’s mission is to promote LGBT philanthropy in the area of world humanitarian relief.

Founded in 2000 by members of the San Francisco LGBT community, RWF works to help people who suffer from hunger, poverty, disease, oppression and war by raising awareness and funds to support relief efforts around the world. RWF works in the LGBT and friends community educating people about world need. Along with raising our community’s consciousness, RWF raises funds to support humanitarian relief projects. RWF provides a united voice, a visible presence, and a structure to deliver charitable assistance from the LGBT community to the larger world community. Learn more at


Creators of The World Tree of Hope

Jeffrey A. Cotter, Founder-President of Rainbow World Fund
A native of the United Kingdom, Jeff founded Rainbow World Fund in 2000 based on his desire to make a difference in the world. He wanted to tap into the LGBT community’s strength to help others and change the public’s misperceptions of LGBT people. A psychiatric social worker specializing in trauma recovery and HIV/AIDS case management. He practices in San Francisco, California. Jeff has worked in the HIV/AIDS and LGBT civil rights fields since 1987.

Paul Stankiewicz
As co-creator with Cotter and artist director of The World Tree of Hope for five years, he worked hard to make RWF more visible in the LGBT and friends community.This is Paul's sixth year as a RWF volunteer and he wears many hats.Paul current lives in New York dividing his time between luxury retail helping people get what they desire and through volunteer work helping people get what they need to survive, live and thrive.

Karen N. Kai, RWF Board Member
An independent research and writing consultant, Karen is a community activist who has served on the boards of local, statewide and national Asian American, civil and human rights organizations. She is a former Chairperson of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission and served as co-chair of its LGBT Advisory Board.

Vicky Mihara- Avery

Specializing in Origami and Japanese paper arts, Vicky has lectured about “Tsutsumi”  the Japanese art of gift wrapping at the Asian Art Museum, the California Academy of Sciences, and on the Martha Stewart show and Good Morning America.  She has provided paper-craft services to clients such as Industrial Light and Magic, VISA International, and Dr. Dobbs Journal.  Her production company Origami Workshop has produced three instructional DVDs including The Art of Japanese Gift Wrap and Origami Fun For Kids.  Vicky is one of the founders of the Pacific Coast OrigamiUSA Conference and was awarded the Michael Shall Volunteer Award from OrigamiUSA for her contributions to the continuing growth of origami in America.

Linda Tomoko Mihara, Artist Director

Linda is a third generation Japanese American who started folding origami at age 5.  She is a professional Origami artist working in print and film.  In addition, she has created large origami installations around the country, including the origami American Flag currently at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art Renwick Gallery in DC.  She is also known internationally for her origami art, which has been featured in group exhibits around the world.   She has won numerous awards, including the Innovation and Juror’s Awards at the California Fine Art Competitions.This is Linda’s eighth year participating in the Tree of Hope. She is the artistic director for the tree.

June Sakamoto

June began folding origami at age 7. Her many accomplishments in the field of origami include designing and creating the 1999 to 2006 Origami Holiday Tree at American Museum of Natural History in New York City. She has appeared on numerous television programs teaching origami including the Martha Stewart Living Show. She was the recipient of the "Golden Box Pleat Award" in 2005 for recognition of her International contribution in Origami and of the "Michael Shall Award" in 2005 recognizing her volunteerism in bridging East/West relations.

Dame Jane Goodall with Jeff Cotter and Paul Stankiewicz
Dame Jane Goodall with Jeff Cotter and Paul Stankiewicz
The 2009 Tree of Hope
                                2009 Tree of Hope Chris Olsen decorates tree.
                           Chris Olsen decorates tree.
2008 Tree of Hope
                                2008 Tree of Hope
Paul Stankiewicz decorates tree.
                       Paul Stankiewicz decorates tree.
2007 Tree of Hope
                                2007 Tree of Hope
Close up of a wish on a hand folded origami crane.
                               Yes We Can crane.