In the late 1980s the Tokyo International Learning Community began in a very small way as a support group for parents of children with special needs. TILC opened a school in a church room, where children suffering from a wide range of disabilities were brought together in a learning environment.
Since the early days, 87 children from more than 20 countries have passed through the school. The school moved from the church to premises in Mitaka, and ran into accommodation problems.
“We decided to buy the land that the school stands on,” said Jane Marwick, a member of TILC’s fundraising committee. “It is a huge commitment. We have incredible support from the Tokyo community, from companies and churches and individual persons. At the moment we have 17 children in attendance, aged from 18 months to 17 years. The school is self-sufficient from its fees, and so can function well.”
But TILC still has a long way to go to buy the land and secure the school’s continuing physical existence.
Jane, from England, is on her third residential stay in Japan. “This time,” she said, “I decided not to work until I found something I really wanted to do. Within two weeks of arriving, I became involved with TILC. Now I am fully committed to helping raise money for this unique school.”
She was a very healthy, athletic girl during her school days, representing her school on different teams. She played hockey for her county, and represented it in athletics tournaments. She decided to become a nurse. “I had a desire to travel the world, and thought that nursing would give me a career I could take anywhere,” she said.
Everything went happily for her during her training for state registration at the Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. She married Tony, whom she had known since her school days. She worked as a staff nurse at a general hospital while he was completing his master’s degree in engineering.
“Two years later we saw an advertisement in the paper for English teachers with professional backgrounds in Japan. We decided to go for it — our first chance to travel outside Europe,” she said. “We had very little knowledge of what we were coming to. We felt we were taking quite a leap.”
They decided to learn to speak Japanese, right away. After two years they returned to England, where Jane worked as a school nurse. “When we had the opportunity to return to Japan, we jumped at the chance,” she said. “I spent three years locally employed at the British Embassy.”
They went back again, and Jane pursued further education in training to be a health visitor. “I loved it, but it was very hard work,” she said. “Then we saw another advertisement, for a British Tourist Authority manager in Japan, someone who could speak Japanese. Tony got the job.
“This time I worked as assistant to the president of Forte Hotel Group here. I was the only foreigner in the office, and I received a fascinating insight into the Japanese work culture. We acquired two stray cats from JAWS.
“Tony transferred to British Airways, and we were posted, with our cats, to Hungary. That was very exciting. We spent nearly every weekend exploring the whole of Europe by car, traveling hundreds of kilometers.”
Later, when the couple lived again in London, Jane worked as a health visitor in a district where she “loved working with a rich mix of nationalities and cultures.”
Tony is a proficient artist. This time in Japan, Jane took a course on “drawing on the right side of the brain.” She said: “I thought I couldn’t draw, but this course changed that. It opened up a new world.”
Her prime commitment, though, is to fundraising for TILC. Without there being such a school, parents from other countries with children who need special help would not be able to accept employment in Japan.
TILC has a professional staff of full-time and part-time teachers and volunteers who care for mental, emotional and physical disabilities in their charges. To help raise money for land purchase, Jane visits companies and gives presentations on the school.
She and her team seek sponsors and donors. School supporters arrange social occasions that let wider audiences know of the school’s existence, and that raise money.
On May 27 a special dinner-theater evening is planned, when a grand raffle, with the top prize courtesy British Airways round-trip tickets to London, will be held to benefit TILC. Details, yet to be finalized, will be available from fax (03) 3443-6109.