Child's Angel
2013winners contribution to society
Extensive collection of donations to make the children's dream come true, culminating in the gift of giraffes to a zoo
Child's Angel

Kushiro-shi Kokkaido

Award summary

Collection of more than 54 million yen in one year by housewives for a zoo without a giraffe to realize a dream

On October 12, 2013, the Kushiro City Zoo was thronged with 2,374 visitors, about twice the normal number, who were eager to get a look at Sky, a one-year-old male giraffe. Because of the strained financial situation, the zoo had been without a single giraffe following the death of the last one in 2009. The reappearance of a giraffe after an interval of four years was made possible by Child's Angel, a local group of housewives (Ms. Yoko Sakamoto, Representative).

The story began about two years ago, when the grandchild of a friend of Ms. Sakamoto asked why there was no giraffe in the city zoo. Ms. Sakamoto had a talk about it with her friends, and the women decided to collect funds themselves in order to buy a giraffe for the zoo. When they consulted the zoo, however, they were told that it would be nearly impossible to purchase one from another zoo in Japan and that purchase of both a male and a female from a zoo in another country would cost about 40 million yen. Although she was stunned by the size of the requisite sum, Ms. Sakamoto formed a group with 19 of her friends and acquaintances in order to collect the necessary funds through donations. The group launched its campaign to collect a total of 50 million yen in May 2012. The members solicited donations on street corners and at various events. They set up donation boxes at about 600 locations and visited about 700 firms to ask for their cooperation. Their activities immediately struck a sympathetic chord, and the circle of support widened from ordinary citizens to schools, companies, and organizations. As a result, by the end of March 2013, the group had exceeded their target and collected about 54 million yen.

The group intended to purchase the giraffes from the San Diego Zoo, but the negotiations conducted through agents were not making much progress. In response, the women decided to visit San Diego themselves to communicate their request to the zoo in person. The zoo side, in turn, graciously agreed to provide one of their giraffes for a fee. The news of this development evoked a big reaction and stirred staff at zoos in Japan. Touched by the power that had moved the world's biggest zoo and by the enthusiasm of the people of Kushiro, the staff at Morioka Zoological Park offered to sell Sky, the little giraffe it was then lending to the Obihiro Zoo. This is how the group finally purchased a giraffe. Subsequently, an agreement was reached with the Hamura Zoo in Tokyo for purchase of a female giraffe this year.

The group disbanded on October 10, 2013, and donated the remaining funds to the Kushiro City Zoo, in the form of the Child's Angel Animal Fund. At present, the members have organized an alumni association and are making recommendations to Kushiro City Zoo as advisors. Building on the ties established through the women, the zoo has decided to purchase rare species from the San Diego Zoo as well as to have veterinarians and keepers go there for short-term training.

Reasons for this award

The activities of the housewives struck a responsive chord and united the hearts of the citizenry for achievement of a big goal

Ordinary housewives accomplished a major feat through activity that began with a casual comment by a child. Their activities were a big inspiration not only to children but also to adults, and are simply scintillating. The citizen empathy with their strong desire to have giraffes for children to see was certainly another key factor. One can also sense the determination of the people of Kushiro behind their success.

Comments from the winner

I would like to thank all concerned for spotlighting our modest effort. Although the problem belonged to a zoo run by the city, we tackled it with the idea that we could resolve problems in our community by our own actions. As a result, I believe that we managed to fuel the dreams and aspirations of our children and grandchildren as tomorrow's community leaders. I am convinced that we also opened the door to new relations between the citizenry and city government.

I am deeply moved once again by the power of our community, where the activities of just 20 housewives and grandmothers spread with a rippling effect.