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Overseas Member Spotlight -Introducing Silvia Wilson: Can I Squeeze More into This Day?

I am sitting in my newly built, half-furnished house in New Hampshire, with a to-do list that includes “advertisement for December ECG”, “cancel MA car registration”, “find custom ice cream sandwiches for wedding” and “reservation at Miller State Park”. I love being busy, ideally including something physically active. My husband and I just completed a 94-mile backpacking trip in Yellowstone, and now we are exploring New Hampshire hiking trails (which will soon be snow-shoeing trails). Give me hiking poles, a bike, kayak, or paddle board, and I am supremely happy.

After raising a family in Minnesota for 26 years, my husband’s job took us first to London for a year, then to Tokyo for three years. I joined CWAJ in 2018, a year into my three-year stay. I dove into a scholarship committee, followed by VVI co-chair, Nominating Committee, Donations, and helping with Print Show guided tours. I tried out EOC, occasionally joined the French Conversation SIG, helped with (and now serve as) ECG coordinator. When I returned to the US, I took on the role of US Overseas Membership coordinator, mid-pandemic. I have loved all the areas of CWAJ I have touched and am so grateful for the vision and can-do attitude of CWAJ to “go virtual” during COVID.  I have been able to stay involved, joining countless Zoom meetings and fascinating presentations, have met a few US-based members, and even had a fabulous tour of Highfield Hall in Falmouth, MA (home of traveling print shows).

When I first arrived in Tokyo, I wasn’t sure how I would fit volunteering for CWAJ into my weeks. Although I had “retired” from a job I loved in finance and human resources with a medical clinic, my volunteering in Tokyo was busy and scattered across every day and week. Two mornings a week I joined an amazing group of women making onigiri for the homeless. A couple of afternoons a week I had the heart-warming opportunity to massage babies at an orphanage in Hiroo. Sunday evenings were dedicated to teaching outdoor skills to a Boy Scout troop at TAC.  And once a month I joined fantastic women for an English Conversation program at their sons’ school. But all my CWAJ volunteering flowed smoothly around that…. Scholarship was November to February. ECG three times a year. Donations was in the Spring, writing up bios for the Nominating Committee was in the summer, and Print Show was in October. I had incredible and dedicated co-chairs and co-coordinators, and every single opportunity connected me with fascinating and energetic women, both Japanese and International.

Even now, every day my inbox brings me a digital connection to CWAJ, or I look up at a print I adore (I am waiting for another to arrive in the mail soon). And while I don’t know when we may return to Japan, I am thrilled to connect with members here in the US.  I recall being nervous at the first few luncheons, overwhelmed by the energy in the room and the vast collection of connected women, easily moving between clusters of conversation. But I found my niche, wishing I had joined earlier. And while I was only active in Tokyo for two years, I have developed life-long friends, and the women I continue to meet are warm and welcoming, and have such incredible stories of travel, family, work, volunteering and, most importantly, personal passions.

A critical part of my engagement with CWAJ is because I was so actively welcomed and encouraged. It is easy to raise my hand or say “yes” when surrounded by others who are volunteering, using their talents for the benefit of others. And each area of CWAJ (Education, Scholarship, Print Show, SIGs…) has room for experienced institutional knowledge as well as new energy and vision.  I encourage each of you to raise your hand, say yes, make new friends, discover your strengths, and have fun!