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This year’s Azalea Tea, the 46th sponsored annually by the Yokohama International Women’s Club, was a sellout event. It featured a fashion show presented by international designer Takeo Nishida. As always, it ran a raffle for covetable prizes. Club President Jane Finch said she appreciates the friendship side of the club, but overwhelmingly it is the welfare side that appeals to her.

Jane Finch

“It helps the people who really need it,” she said. “We have some commitments overseas, and especially at times of disaster help with emergency relief, but most of the assistance given is to people in Japan, here where we are. That pleases me.”

Soon after she arrived in Japan six years ago, Jane joined YIWC. She also joined Refugees International Japan, and is Yokohama director for the organization. “It is wonderful, run by volunteers here,” she said. “I have made trips to two of the camps, on the Thai-Burmese border and the Thai-Cambodian border. They were immensely humbling experiences, that generated in me even greater enthusiasm to help raise money.” Charitable work, she says, is something she will certainly continue wherever she goes later on. She will be leaving Japan this year.

Jane, the youngest of five in her family, grew up in the south of England. “There are many teachers in my family, and I always wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “I received convent education. Then, as I was young for my year, I worked in commerce in London till I was 20. As a mature student, I went to train in the Chelsea College of Physical Education, and qualified as a P.E. teacher. I was a gymnast and athlete as well. Music was another main subject. I married after my training, but went to teach 11 to 18-year-olds in one of the public schools, until I had my first child.”

Jane had two daughters and a son, and returned to full-time teaching when her youngest was 4. “During the time when I was bringing up children, I did carry on teaching gymnastics,” she said. “And I established a folk choir in our church in Surrey, that is still there. We used to make music tapes and send them to people who were house-bound.” Once she returned to full-time teaching, Jane stayed with her work until her husband’s job moved the family to Canada.

“I didn’t work there,” she said. “I continued studying the piano instead, and took up art. When we came to Japan, I decided I had had such an interesting and fruitful life that I would do something for others. I would do charity work if it was presented to me.” In no time at all, the work of YIWC and RIJ was presented to her, and Jane responded.

She is a fully rounded person who describes her family as “sporty and musical.” As well as being able sports persons, they play musical instruments and sing. Young adults now in England, her daughters and son came together recently to say their own goodbyes to Japan.

“Because I love teaching so much, I began a small gymnastics class and a netball club at the Yokohama Country and Athletic Club,” Jane went on. The netballers, though few in number, “have a lot of fun. We went to play in Singapore last year.” Jane also undertook to be chairwoman for the Yokohama Bluff Clinic. “I wear rather a lot of hats,” she laughed.

The YIWC, which is now 72 years old, has been complimented by both the governor of Kanagawa Prefecture and the mayor of Yokohama for its international goodwill and care for the elderly in need, the physically and mentally impaired, and children. The Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Yokohama Community Foundation for the Handicapped have recognized the work of YIWC. Recipients of YIWC support, both financial and personal, include notably two homes for children and one home for the elderly.

As she prepares to exchange Japan for England, Jane says she is very sorry to be leaving. She has already inquired about Japanese language lessons in London in order to continue the study she began here. “I can think of no greater reward than in work for charity,” she said. “I shall certainly carry on with it. I think I have a high energy level, and hope it will last. I do think much of that is an attitude of mind.”