David Blecken
May 18, 2016

‘Transplant for toys’ draws attention to the need for child organ donors

TOKYO - A shortage of child organ donors is a major problem in Japan. A new initiative for the Green Ribbon Campaign, which supports organ donation, aims to change that by prompting discussion around the topic with the help of soft toys.

‘Transplant for toys’ draws attention to the need for child organ donors

‘Second Life Toys’ is exactly what you might imagine: toy animals and other characters that have been given a new lease of life thanks to a transplanted ‘body part’ from another toy. It’s designed to raise awareness of the importance of organ donation among both children and their families and friends.

The project was led by Akira Suzuki and Togo Kida, young creative directors at Dentsu. The website outlines the concept in Japanese and English and invites interaction at [email protected].

Participants can put forward both toys in need of a ‘transplant’ and toys that can serve as ‘donors’. First, they send a picture of the toy; once it’s approved, they submit the actual toy for ‘operation’. The toys in need of transplants undergo ‘surgery’ and are sent back, fully recovered and even enhanced. Examples featured include a giraffe with a pink teddy bear’s leg, and an elephant with a trunk made from a squirrel’s tail.

Recipients are encouraged to send a note of gratitude to the donor.

In a video on the site, Misa Ganse, Green Ribbon Project committee director, notes that of 14,000 people waiting for transplants in Japan, only around 300 are likely to receive one over the course of a year—2 percent.

Kida said people tend to avoid the topic of organ transplant because “it conjures up an image of death”. “When it comes to child organ transplant, the tendency intensifies,” he said. “We had to come up with a way to make this topic more approachable.”

The site includes comments from people who have taken part. “Through this initiative, I came to think about organ transplant for the first time,” Yuko Ogura is quoted as saying. “Even if my life may end, if it’s possible to save others, I thought I want to take part in that.”

Campaign’s view: We really like the simplicity and poetic nature of the idea. It’s a fun yet striking way to highlight an important social issue. Time will tell if it has the desired effect—but even a single new organ donor gained is a valuable result.


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