Although Chid Waller says she waxes lyrical over the career she was following in England, she willingly gave it up to come to Tokyo. That was three years ago. During this time she has put her expertise at the disposal of several local organizations, giving them voluntarily the benefit of her effective leadership skills.
For one of these organizations, Refugees International Japan, from having been director of publicity she has become executive director. She said: “My learning curve here has been very steep, and it has been an exciting time. Working for a cause as vital and tragic as that of the world’s refugees is one that fires all of us with inspiration and determination. It’s very rewarding for me to apply my professional skills to such a worthwhile and needed purpose.”
Her unusual name came from her brother, who in childhood couldn’t pronounce her real name, Sheila.
Chid is a 1973 graduate, with an honors degree in history, of Bristol University. That is where she met her husband, Richard. She said: “We lived in adjoining apartments. He had a clarinetist friend staying with him, who practiced scales for hours on end when my flat mates and I were studying. We hammered on the wall with a broom, and Richard came round to apologize.” Their relationship developed into friendship after that uneasy first encounter, and Richard and Chid married shortly after she had graduated.
They honeymooned, in part, in the Sahara. One vivid memory lingers of a visit to a desert zoo. There the two were ushered into a compound that had lions in cages on three sides. “The gates were closed behind us, and the lions set free. One wandered over, rubbed against my leg and sat on my foot. Not so funny at the time, but it has made good dinner party material ever since,” Chid laughed.
Early in their married life, the couple went to live in Hong Kong. Their first son was born there. Their second son was born in England after their return. In 1982 the family of four moved to Chicago.
Chid taught at a Montessori school in Illinois, and founded an international club for expatriates there. She joined a debating group, and became its chairwoman. She volunteered to drive disabled and disadvantaged people. “I was always active outside the home, and involved in a wide variety of enterprises. But it was not until we returned to the U.K. in 1987 that I was able to develop a formal and exciting career for myself,” she said.
Her career for the next decade was in the financial services industry. She said, “I was a senior manager responsible for PR, marketing and client services for a European life insurance company. I was also a member of the company’s U.K. executive strategy team, serving on international business development and cooperation committees at our head office in Switzerland. The work was wide-ranging.” Concurrently for part of that decade, Richard and Chid together ran their own business management consultancy company.
In Tokyo, Chid joined the College Women’s Association of Japan. This autumn she was responsible for the publicity for CWAJ’s 45th annual print show. She has commitments with several other groups, and at this stage is giving priority to Refugees International Japan.
Chid points out that each year RIJ supports about 20 refugee projects worldwide. Programs provide both emergency and long-term help, with emphasis placed on returning refugees to self-sufficiency. Staffed by volunteers, RIJ is grateful to its supporters and especially to the Shell Group in Japan, which donates office space. It organizes a series of activities designed to raise funds, including sales of handmade crafts, many of them produced by refugees, and the Art of Dining Charity Exhibition. At this season it concentrates on the sales of Christmas and greeting cards, and on its Christmas Tree Campaign.
Chid said: “This campaign, called ‘Light up the Life of a Refugee Child,’ is held each December in the Marunouchi north exit at Tokyo Station. American President Lines donates and ships a tree from Seattle. Each day during the campaign, miniconcerts are held around the tree, and cards, crafts and decorations are put on sale. This campaign, that invites people walking through Tokyo Station to help refugee children, is RIJ’s only fundraising activity on the streets.”