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Center in Tokai helps foreigners

Chunichi Shimbun

A new group has been established in the Tokai region to help foreign residents get educational, medical and welfare services in Japan.

Tokai Daily Life Support Center for Foreigners mainly focuses on assisting aging Chinese returnees and helping foreign children learn Japanese.

The center held an event for seniors of Chinese descent on July 19 at Day-service NOAH, a nursing home in Nagoya’s Kita Ward, Aichi Prefecture, which is staffed by speakers of Chinese.

By introducing such facilities, the support center hopes that elderly foreigners can find a place to settle down comfortably in the nation.

The support center was set up by a Chinese person and a Japanese resident who signed up to be interpreters under the Aichi Medical Interpretations System program.

Aichi Prefecture created the system in fiscal 2012 to assist foreign patients in hospitals, and the two joined the program in its first year. It is now looking for members and sponsors.

However, they felt the need to support foreigners in all aspects of life, not just in hospitals, and began looking for like-minded people. Wang Rong, a 49-year old resident of Nagoya’s Kita Ward who represents the support center, was born and raised in Manchuria after her parents moved to China under Japan’s emigration policy in the lea-up to World War II. Her father became the first generation of returnees who was repatriated to Japan in the 1980s.

When her dad’s health deteriorated and he required intensive nursing, Wang began to appreciate the problems nursing home residents face with language and lifestyle differences.

She keenly felt the need to provide support to aging foreign residents in Japan, especially since the average age of the returnees, including orphans and wives who were left behind in China after the war ended, is over 70.

Meanwhile, Ge Dongmei, the 36-year old deputy representative of the center, came to Japan from China after marrying a Japanese man. She realized that many foreign parents who send their children to schools in Japan do not speak Japanese well, and neither do their children. This raises a lot of communication issues with the school.

With Ge as the main handler, the center plans to work with schools to start a Japanese class for foreign children at the Hosei housing complex in Nakagawa Ward. Classes for parents are also in the works.

The rapid aging of the populace affects both Japanese and non-Japanese, and there is a growing need to train interpreters for nursing homes as well.

Tokai Daily Life Support Center will organize a symposium and invite foreigners from other countries, such as Brazil, the Philippines and Indonesia, to share problems and discuss these issues.

“I remember how difficult it was when I first came to Japan because of the language barrier. I had help from the people around me then, so it’s my turn to do the same now and help others as much as I can ,” said Wang.

This section, appearing Saturdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on July 18.

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