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Manchester Bidwell Helping Japan Tsunami Victims

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- The Manchester Craftsmen's Guild and the Bidwell Training Center have changed countless lives in Western Pennsylvania.

Now, their influence will soon be felt in Japan, where the founder received a peace award. The bond was sealed Wednesday morning with the planting of a tree.

The cherry tree is planted in Pittsburgh, but its roots are in Japan.

Hiroo and Masama Saionji of Tokyo are in town to learn all they can about the nonprofit Manchester Bidwell Corporation.

Founder Bill Strickland received their foundation's Goi Peace Award last year in Tokyo.

The award puts Strickland in some good company, previous recipients include Bill Gates and Depak Chopra.

During his visit to Japan, Strickland was shocked by the country's devastation in the wake of last year's tsunami.

"He and the leaders of the Goi Foundation resolved that they would build a center based on the Manchester Bidwell model in Japan to serve as a beacon of hope for those people impacted by the tsunami and as a symbol of hope for the Japanese people," said Paolo Nzambi, the COO of Manchester Bidwell

Festivities continued with jazz streamed live on the web and the presentation of gifts. Japan will follow the Manchester model: art education for youth and training for adults.

"The same philosophy that governs this place will work in Japan, and we're already talking about working with Goi and Bidwell and maybe using the center in Japan as an example of how we can do it all over the world," said Strickland.

The Japanese visitors had one final suggestion: Strickland's next peace prize should come from Scandinavia, from the Nobel Foundation.

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