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From Japan to volunteer with Baptistcare at the Wheatbelt

Young Japanese volunteers are travelling to Western Australia to help provide support to Baptistcare aged care residents living with dementia.

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From Japan to volunteer with Baptistcare at the Wheatbelt

15 May 2019

News | Aged Care Homes

Occupational therapist Koki Ishino left the bustling city of Osaka in Japan and travelled 7,500km to land at the Wheatbelt town of Kellerberrin.

Koki is participating in the Win Win Culture Exchange Program, an extraordinary scheme which brings young Japanese and Australian seniors living with dementia together.

It’s the brainchild of Baptistcare Dryandra’s Lifestyle Coordinator, Shizuka Yokoi, who herself moved to Perth from Japan in 2014 and began volunteering at Baptistcare Gracewood Residential Care in Salter Point.

Like Koki, the qualified occupational therapist had limited English skills when she started volunteering which made it incredibly challenging to spend even a few hours a day in a new environment.

“But the residents, especially those with dementia, accepted me by showing love and kindness, and Baptistcare Gracewood began to feel more home than the Perth share-house I was living in.”

From those very early days volunteering, Shizuka gained an appreciation of non-verbal support, such as hugs, smiles, acceptance and appreciation from residents living with dementia.

“I realised those residents, like me, were finding it difficult to communicate verbally and for them the social interaction was much more important than speaking,” she said.

Shizuka’s experience was the catalyst for her to establish Win Win which, since its commencement in 2015, has seen 15 people travel from Japan to participate in the scheme and learn English in a real-life setting.

Shizuka believes encouraging more young international volunteers to visit Australian residential aged care facilities has enormous potential.

“I believe it is hugely beneficial to elderly people living in residential care and can also help to create a dementia-friendly world and an inclusive society.”

Click here for more information about volunteering at BaptistCare.