Looking back on the past 13 years and thinking about the future of JSS.
By Takeo Maekawa
It was about 15 years ago in 1998 while I had been involved in the business world when I started to be get involved with JSS . At the time I had no knowledge about its activities so I took on the position as an observer. Later, about 13 years ago, I accepted the position of president.
In the western world, “13” isn’t a lucky number though it brought to me a new period in my life. Thirteen years is a somewhat long time to remember for an old man like me whose memory is weakening. It is somewhat hard to remember exactly in detail what happened.
However, I clearly remember when I accepted the recommendation from several people to accept the position of president. Spending about 35 years as a member of one of Japan’s electronic businesses that supported enormous economic development in Japan at that time, I experienced several overseas assignment starting in Spain and finishing my career in Canada.
I felt as follows: I wish to repay my obligation to the society which provided me the opportunity to work and to provide for my family as a businessman during the last 35 years.
In Japan there is the expression orei-hoko, which means free service acknowledging a favor. I decided to do orei-hoko to society by taking on the position of president of JSS. At the time the agency was called JFS (Japanese Family Services), named from it’s foundation in 1989. I joined the agency several months after it faced financial non-existence and service suspension. However, I was amazed that there were many people still eager to continue the service.
The background of those service providers was varied. It included many social work professionals and so many community members. They contributed their efforts without pay to continue JFS and also got a variety of support from some organizations and individuals.
As president, I started my endeavor at first to change name of the agency with the aim of reforming its image. I discussed with many people including board members and got opinions through our AGM, Together we decided to name us JSS or Japanese Social Services. We had to face tough financial difficulty, but we believed the continuation of the agency was the key. And if the community recognized our effort of service continuation we would get support. As a result, JSS had to ask staff to work with less than satisfactory pay and also the agency had to depend so much on volunteers.
Under such condition, the staff recognized the value of their efforts and the importance of their service. And volunteers found a place to exhibit their capabilities. I believe that everybody performed their jobs enthusiastically.
After changing the name to JSS, the counselors were in order: Mrs. Jean Peasah, Ms. Jueri Ishikawa, Ms. Chrystal Whitney, Ms. Junko Mifune, who has rejoined us, and our current counselor Mr. Takanori Kuge. I can’t count the number of volunteers since there were so many. For example, in CCE’s (Canadian Conversational English) introductory English class, Ms. Megan Mclaren took on the position of voluntarily instructor. Mr. Takanashi from Kushiro, Hokkaido and Ms. Masuda from Wakayama voluntarily organized the class.
Another program called Craft Club was organized by my better half, Teruko. I could talk about other programs to give a truer picture of what JSS does but the description and list of volunteers would take up more than the space this article can allow.
My better half, Teruko and I plus several members including board members formed the centre of the agency. But in reality the actual activities were carried out by the office administrator, Mrs. Nobuko Kitamura, the counselors, and the innumerable volunteers.
We also can’t forget the contribution of board members such as Mr. Toke Suyama, one of longest serving members of the agency and the board, who has donated his time, effort, and wisdom to JSS. Further, those bodies that contributed both morally and financially such as the City of Toronto and many organizations and individuals belonging to the community such as the JCCC which provided work space at far less than market value.
As a result of the efforts of the always-responsible board members and helping supporters, JSS was able to budget at a rather realistic level. Hopefully if this situation continues I feel the agency will continue to contribute to making us a better community.
I still feel continuation is the most important direction for JSS. On top of this, we should maintain our independence and neutrality, and place further importance on communication of our activities in an easy to understand manner to the community.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to address my understanding about Japan and its relation to the modern world. Japan is a country which modernized rapidly through the Meiji Restoration and WWⅡ. However, I feel personally that there still is a lot of cultural catching up to do. I think mankind is stepping toward assimilation. Maintaining cultural individuality in such a situation is not easy. In this way, Canada is performing a huge experiment in the way called multiculturalism. If Japan continues to step toward assimilation, large numbers of Japanese will move to Canada. I believe JSS can help in such a situation.
Let me finish this article with my sincere hope that there will be further development of JSS activities which can be realized by using my resignation as a chance for something new.