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Overseas Member Spotlight – Introducing Elaine Kaps

I was born and spent the first 17 years of my life in Barbados. My secondary and higher education took me to Southern California (where I met my future husband), the U.K .and Austria. After getting married and having two sons, I taught English and History in a state secondary school before my husband was transferred to Tokyo for a six-month assignment that ended up being 12 wonderful years for us all. After returning to Switzerland, I completed a degree in Psychology and have been working as an academic counsellor of 16- to 18-year-old students preparing to enter colleges and universities worldwide. I have also been assistant to the principals of the last two schools at which I worked.

My involvement with CWAJ began in 1985 with membership of various activity groups. Between 1987 and 1991, I was Newsletter Editor, Co-Chairman (together with my dear deceased friend, Sachiko Yamamoto) for an English Language Symposium at Gakushuin University, active in the Language Service Program for Secondary Schools, and also very interested in the CEC program and Prefectural Seminars.

Although not directly involved with Volunteers for the Visually Impaired, I was very concerned that Scholarships should be awarded to applicants from this group. Later positions included being Vice-President for Membership Activities, and finally President.In this role I was able to learn about and appreciate the Lecture Series, the Print Show and CWAJ’s wider Scholarship programs. One event that stands out in my mind is the Symposium on Volunteerism, which allowed those of us involved to meet with women (mainly from South Asian countries) and discuss their needs.

The Lecture Series during my term as President examined Our Fragile Earth. The two co-chairs, Anne Dekkers and Tomoko Ochiai (both of whom were later elected as Presidents of CWAJ), opened my eyes to the harmful road we were following. The numbers of natural and man-made catastrophes that have occurred during this past decade and continue to occur, have made me value the chance I have to be living in one of the safest, most democratically and efficiently managed countries in the world. I feel fortunate to be able to contribute in a small way to dealing with these disastrous challenges.

After moving back to Europe in 1992, I was able to return to Japan on four occasions, on two of which I could only admire and appreciate the outstanding organizational skills of the CWAJ members in presenting wonderful CWAJ anniversary events. My involvement with CWAJ is now limited to the Newsletters and the caring emails that come from Jennie Orchard, who voluntarily and untiringly keeps in touch with past CWAJ members in Europe. 

Looking ahead, I will continue to work with students as long as my health permits. I am now at the stage where some of my former students are making wonderful contributions to medicine with the research in which they are involved. This is most satisfying to witness. Education was always my main concern in CWAJ – in fact, one of my closest friends nicknamed me the Education President – and it continues to be one of my greatest interests. 

CWAJ raised my life to a much higher level. I learnt what it meant to volunteer, to give of my time and contribute to society, to be broadminded and accepting of different cultures.  When I look at my sons, I am pleased to say that this undoubtedly had a positive effect on how they treat their fellow men. I encourage everyone to enjoy their work as partners, fostering friendships and intercultural relationships, accepting diversity. CWAJ was a great organization that helped me to better understand the Japanese and Japan. I am fortunate to still have many Japanese as well as international friends from this time in Tokyo.

NB Elaine’s photo was taken at International House in Tokyo in July 2017.
Top row, l to r: Akiko Ikezawa, Mitsuyo Suga, Reiko Nagase, Keiko Horikawa
Seated, l to r: Yoshiko Kubota, Akiko Yanagisawa, Elaine Kaps, Tomoko Ochiai

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