Rev. Edward Yoshida is the Pastor of Wesley Chapel Japanese Church. He was one of the founding members of the Japanese Family Services (predecessor of Japanese Social Services) and he’s been the longest-standing member and donor of both organizations in the last 25 years. We asked him to write about the birth of JFS and what he thinks of the current role of JSS in our community.
IF JSS EXITS?
By Edward S. Yoshida, Retired Minister/J.S.S. member
The author, Yoshida, was a Family Counselor/Probation Officer for the government of Ontario when the first call came from Setsuko Thurlow, M.S.W. This was some months before Japanese Family Services was organized in 1980. In his capacity as Family Counsellor at the Family Court on 311 Jarvis St, he was usually assigned to Nikkei cases that required some interpretation. These included complaints of domestic violence, desertion and financial irresponsibilities, third party intrusion into the marriage, depression-related shoplifting, in-laws interference plus others. Setsuko herself was occasionally called by other social agencies, schools, courts & even hospitals to offer bilingual services despite her full-time commitment to the Metro Dept. of Social Services.
Before the birth of J.F.S. these cases were brought to the attention of local church ministers and Buddhist priest. (Yoshida was one of them, wearing a dual hat) The Nikkei clients hesitated to seek their help because they feared the leakage of confidentiality. So when Setsuko gave the invitation, others involved with providing unofficial social services came to the early organizational meetings either at her home or the JCCC. She struck a similar chord in the minds of others.
Another impetus for Yoshida’s participation in this new organization came from the Bible. Jesus did not only teach and preach, but he fed, clothed, healed and helped those who were depressed and oppressed. Yoshida felt that serving these people was part of his ministerial call. What better place than the J.F.S. to serve the community can be found, he thought!
Some 20 years after its birth, the J.F.S. changed significantly in its outreach to the community. Its services grew, changed and morphed into other areas of community need.
Newcomers English Class was begun. Seminars and lectures on health, prevention of diseases, problem of dementia, community safety, translation of Ontario’s available pamphlets on these issue and other kinds of referrals made the name, Family Services, too exclusive. Thus the name changed to J.S.S., Japanese Social Services in year 2000.
Today, J.S.S. has one full-time and one part-time counsellor. The two handle cases running into the hundreds and many man-hours over a one-year period. They also have one full time office administrator who handles office duties and coordinates various programs that JSS carries. They are further assisted by an army of volunteers who attend the J.S.S. office located inside the JCCC. And of course all members of the governing Board are volunteers.
If J.S.S. should exit from the community, where can these Nikkei clients go for social services when their first language is not English? Even the government of Japan has begun to see its need. What J.S.S. needs today is a regular, consistent core of supporters and volunteers who will provide both funds and time to this relatively unknown organization.