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The Japanese News Channel

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Minna No Tsudoi, “a gathering for everyone”, is a Japanese term and name of a program in Surrey that has brought together, pre-COVID-19, an otherwise isolated group of Japanese Canadian seniors. Since COVID-19, the group has renamed itself The Japanese News Channel

The Japanese News Channel is a telephone-based program that allows this group of friends and peers to participate in familiar activities they had previously experienced in person as Minna No Tsudoi. At this same time, the weekly local Japanese newspaper was discontinued. In Japanese, the group sings songs, solves riddles, shares laughter and on a practical level, hears the latest news on government announcements related to COVID-19. Most importantly, they share social connection.

“I think engaging in familiar activities in their native language and knowing what’s happening around them in this time of uncertainty has given them confidence and reassurance as many have limited English, some live alone, and their children and grandchildren, if they have any, often don’t speak Japanese,”  says Keiko Funahashi, Reaching Out Program Coordinator for Tonari Gumi (Japanese Community Volunteers Association).

Launched in April 2020, meetings are held weekly on Tuesdays at 1:00 and the teleconference means a participant like Akiko has a regular virtual visit allowing her a time to socially connect from the safety of her own home. “I enjoy ‘getting together’ with members of the group and hearing their voices every week. It feels like we’re still connected.”

There are no technical challenges in connecting this group of seniors. The program only requires a telephone, with no need for internet connection, familiarity with video chats, or designated software. 

There have been some limitations due to language. Some of the participants must navigate the English automated message they get when they receive the call to start the meeting and the program asks them to press ‘1’. One participant thought it was a fraudulent call and hung up, and another was unsure of how to follow the instructions. The volunteer leaders now give individual phone calls when someone hasn’t joined the session to make sure they understand the procedures and to make sure the senior is okay. 

Curating content for a telephone-based program is challenging. The Japanese News Channel balances passive listening to news, riddles, and funny Haiku poems with interactive activities such as singing. 

Singing together didn’t work well as the program took off. There is a lag in timing over the phone and not all participants know the lyrics to the songs. These challenges have been resolved by turning off everyone’s sound except for that of the person who leads the singing. Lyrics from the group’s songbook are photocopied and mailed prior to each session when needed.

Many of the members have known each other for years, and the two volunteer leaders, themselves seniors, make sure this small community of Japanese speaking seniors from Surrey, Delta and Langley remain in touch with each other during COVID-19.

In collaboration with Tonari Gumi Japanese Community Volunteers Association in Vancouver, the Japanese News Channel is part of The Seniors’ Centre Without Walls program, an initiative under the Surrey Intercultural Seniors Social Inclusion Partnership (SISSIP) Network Project which in turn is offered through United Way Better at Home partner agency, Seniors Come Share Society.


File Attachments

1 Intercultural Interfaith Nov 27.docx
  • Location

    Surrey, B.C.

  • Organization


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