The Children's Institute Blog

Handstamp Project Visits The Children's Institute

Posted: Aug 28, 2017 by The Children's Institute

Karen Miyazawa left her native Japan in April and is traveling the world for 13 months collecting handprints of children with special needs. The goal? To present a mosaic of the colorful collection at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.

She recently arrived by Megabus in Pittsburgh. The day after her arrival, she made her first print-collecting trip – to The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh.

“I’ve been through San Francisco, Oregon, Michigan, New York,” said Karen, 18, a recent high school graduate in a “gap year” who came to the U.S. after initial trips to Brazil and Peru. “Meeting with children is great, in so many ways. I can learn so many things from children.”

Karen will be meeting lots of them. She and others in the project aim to collect 100,000 handprints for the mosaic. They have collected more than 3,000 so far.

“It’s really cool to know she’ll have her hands with other kids who’ve experienced their own struggles,” said Jennnifer Schleich, as her daughter Guinevere, 4, an inpatient here, dipped her palm in yellow ink. “You don’t realize, at 4, they’re going to make something that’s part of a larger community.”

Karen is spending her time in Pittsburgh with Dr. Jane Breck, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. They planned to visit about six or seven schools and agencies that serve children with special needs.

“Her parents said she could do this as long as she stays safe and secure,” said Dr. Breck, who connected with Karen through a former Pittsburgh neighbor, who is Japanese and now lives in California. “[The Children’s Institute] is our first so this is special. This is a privilege!”

Karen’s next stop after Pittsburgh? Europe, she said. Then, to Africa.

“It’s pretty adventure-y,” Karen laughed, as an assisting staff member told a blue-inked boy “You’re handprint is going to Japan; it’s like you’re going to Japan!”

“Meeting new people is real exciting,” she said.

To learn more about the project, visit

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