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A Presentation: Chicago-Osaka Social Services Exchange

• A presentation from participants of the sixth annual Chicago-Osaka social services exchange “Lessons in Effective Social Services across International Contexts” took place on April 14 at the Japan information Center of the Consulate General of Japan in Chicago.
• The Osaka-Chicago Social Service Exchange started in 2008 with a focus on understanding the needs and supports for the people with disabilities and older adults, and a goal of improving systems and service delivery to those vulnerable populations. The exchange has been held alternately in each city and convened interdisciplinary professionals to build relationships to deepen cultural understanding and share best practices related to their varied work in human services.
• Six social service professionals visited sites in Osaka from November 7 to 13, 2015 and explored the theme of the sixth annual exchange “Outreach to Marginalized Populations” with Japanese professionals.

• Akane Kumagai, Case Management Services Coordinator at the Ruth M. Rothstein CORE Center, visited facilities in Airin district where many day laborers and homeless people lived. Literally, ai means love, and rin means neighbors. She noted ads for daily employments and vending machines, which sold a bottle of drink at 10 to 30 cents, cheaper than other places. There were also stores in the district. They sold equipment and personal items such as gloves, boots, and pants.
• She said that one of the things that stuck out for her was an inn in the district. The hotel offered comfortable settings for day laborers at an affordable accommodation fee of about $10 for a night. A commuter doctor provided medication. The hotel service was exclusively for men because almost all residents of Airin district were men.
• A homeless shelter offered about 200 beds in a room. It was clean place.
• Kumagai visited support and drop-in center for day laborers and homeless. A social service agency provided psychosocial support such as karaoke parties, outreach and art therapy activities.
• She also toured a Day Care center for marginalized families. The center offered free meals and activities for children who were from ethnic minorities.
• In an activity of community restoration, day laborers and homeless were doing gardening and planting flowers. She said that the activities were giving them more community feelings even though many of them were moving to different places.
• Kumagai saw writing by an Osaka resident at an agency where staff members were dealing with mentally ill people. It read “The worst disease that a human being can have is that they are not needed by anyone.” She said, “That stuck out to me because even with my work in Chicago, what the marginalized population needed is feeling connection to others. So a lot of times, homelessness might be a result of feeling of disconnection. I thought that it was a really important theme when you wondered why certain a population was marginalized.”

• Akane Kumagai also spoke about LGBT movements in Osaka. Progress on gender issues has been made in Osaka, especially in Yodogawa Ward.
• She met an advocacy group “Gender X”. The group has supported and educated to increase awareness of LGBT issues and provided a rainbow colored mascot on all ward officials’ IDs. The group also set up free space in the ward office to hold LGBT programs twice a month. Yodogawa became the first ward in Japan to officially support LGBT residents by efforts toward four themes.
• Educational and anti-bullying pamphlets have been available for teachers. The safety issue has been emphasized on protection of LGBT’s rights such as workplace, inheritance, and blackmail issues related to outing. Two gay lawyers, who were married to each other, have been working in the field.

• On behalf of Maria Loayza, who participated in the tour to Osaka, Kumagai spoke about Japan’s aging population with information provided by the Osaka Mayor’s office.
• Japan’s aging population is rising, and the birth rate is declining. Regarding the rising aging population, 2025 will be at its peak. What they learned about were social insurance, disability insurance, long term core insurance, public assistance system since 1950, and Osaka’s third position in Japan for aging population.
• Kumagai’s group visited Day Center for Korean elderly, who didn’t have opportunities to study Japanese writing and reading when they were young. They study Japanese language and history after they have a free lunch. Besides, the center offers outside trips to interact with students and volunteer groups to provide the elderly with a sense of joy and comfort.
• The group also visited a night school for elderly and foreign residents. It offers up to a high school education. Its students, who were in their 70s and 80s, were mainly Korean, Chinese, and other minorities. Kumagai said that the elderly students got a sense of empowerment through their study. “It’s never too late to go to school,” she added.

• Leslie Cook, Director of Secondary Services at Giant Steps, spoke about “Developmental Disabilities”.
• She visited Osaka Mayor’s office and had many discussions on the subject. Two distinctions that she noted were separate support for physical and mental/emotional disabilities. Another was support that was needed for cognitive disabilities. Osaka government has supported more gymnastic activities.
• She visited Elm Osaka Support Center, which has promoted advocacy and education for those with autism. She said that many services have not been provided in this field because information for needs was still being sought. Advocates have been trying to break down the stigma, so that more families would be open to seek help.
• The similarity between Osaka and the U.S. is advocacy. Advocates have worked diligently to provide services for high area of needs and tried to find how to provide them. Services are also needed to educate caregivers.
• The differences are overall educational services and diversity of needs and programs. Financial support is also different. Osaka needs governmental financial support while Illinois looks for donations and grants rather than relying on government.
• The things she learned from the exchange program were: being passionate about the care for the work, the needs for service and programs aligning and more inclusive programs, challenges with lack of community and family support, and needs for job creation for disabilities.

• Jonas Ginsburg, a clinical manager at Asian Human Services, visited Sui Sui, which provided community-based mental health services. Despite local opposition, the facility was established in 1999, and its clients were mainly Koreans and Japanese. Its daily program included individual counseling, peer support group, and hygiene support.
• After visiting Sui Sui, Ginsburg said that struggles of estrangement were universal, and as advocates, their role was to support individuals to feel “whole” with clients themselves and their communities.
• He also said that he saw the vulnerabilities of Japan, and the courage of certain individuals to provide services, despite opposition and stigma.

• The presentation was hosted by the Chicago Sister Cities International and the Consulate General of Japan in Chicago with generous support of Mrs. Joyce Chelberg

Akane Kumagai, Case Management Services Coordinator at the Ruth M. Rothstein CORE Center

Leslie Cook, Director of Secondary Services at Giant Steps

Jonas Ginsburg, a clinical manager at Asian Human Services