JSS Program & Volunteer Report

by Chie Takano Reeves (RSW) , Community Outreach Worker / Volunteer Coordinator 

It has been more than a year since JSS started our online programs in hope of providing opportunities for Japanese Canadian community members to connect. 

Our volunteers who coordinate our social programs (e.g. seniors singing club, craft club, hot lunch social, easy yoga for seniors) had to acquire technical skills and knowledge to run their Zoom programs. As we gain more participants, they have been committed to providing a warm and safe environment for their group members, working on brushing up their facilitation skills. We’ve doubled the number of these volunteer positions to avoid isolation working remotely and to share tasks and responsibilities. The volunteers’ passion and wish to support JSS serving the community brought us to the stage where we are planning a facilitation training for these coordinators, closer to a professional facilitation. The Raising Amuro Kids program (support group for parents raising children with developmental disabilities), which has been on pause because of the pandemic, has started dialogue towards opening an online group with support from the volunteers. 

The Momiji & JSS online seminar series, which was a totally new endeavor, marked its one-year anniversary in June. It was started by just two social workers who wanted to provide spaces for community members especially seniors to connect; today, we have a team of volunteers, practicum students and an interpreter helping this program. We try our best to respond to requests where possible. We had many community members joining our very first session to learn about  Medical Assistance in Dying, MAID (click here to watch the recording). With “Power of Attorney & Wills” (May) and “Advance Care Planning” (Sept), we aim to deliver you the opportunity to start looking closely into your own values, choices and wishes, and have these sessions as opportunities to start conversations with you family, friends, and service providers. At the same time, our seminar series presents a broad range of the topics such as food, culture, health and prevention (wellness / boosting immune system) in hope of attracting a wide range of individuals, especially older adults. 

Every year around mid-summer, JSS forms a special team of volunteers to start preparing towards our annual Holiday Drive program. We are very happy to be able to recruit two volunteers (coordinators) for 2021! As was the case last year, we will not be able to place the donation boxes at the locations of our community partners due to pandemic safety concern. But just like last year, we will launch the campaign to gather monetary donations in the fall, to allow us to purchase necessities and deliver them to the community members in need. We sincerely hope to have your warm support this year too! 

We are overwhelmed to see the participants joining our programs from many locations in Ontario, Quebec, BC and even the US, whereas our in-person service users mostly live in the GTA and can come to our service locations. We will bring back in-person service at some point when safety is assured, but now we face the issue of how we can support our community members in remote areas. Due to our limited finances and capacity, we know we will not be able to continue to run all of our remote programs while restarting in-person ones. However, we would like to continue conversations with our community members and various individuals as well as groups who are willing to help us extent our hands to those who are unable to benefit from in-person service. During the pandemic, we received kind offers from many to work together to help fellow community members. Though we could not proceed with some of them due to our limited capacity, it was such an amazing feeling to see their passion. It made us realize again that, together with these like-minded individuals and groups, we can reach out to more, which is the heart of community development. Please keep in touch with us, keep bringing your ideas and supporting hands to us, so that we may help our community members together!