Toshie Okada has been named October’s Respect Works Here Community Champion for her diverse involvement in society. (Submitted photo)

Toshie Okada has been named October’s Respect Works Here Community Champion for her diverse involvement in society. (Submitted photo)

Behind the blue and white Carnival clown mask

Toshie Okada is named October’s Respect Works Here Community Champion

Toshie Okada is someone who has brought a smile to many people through volunteering, and says she enjoys “doing small things” and not attracting attention to herself.

This is certainly true as she has played the role of jopette, the blue-and-white mime, for many years during Vernon’s Winter Carnival.

READ MORE: Vernon Winter Carnival hands out hardware

She likes meeting new people, being part of the community, and focusing on the positive. Okada immerses herself fully in new experiences, often led by her wandering curiosity, which she attributes as a factor in her arriving in Vernon from Japan many years ago.

Okada had studied musical engineering and classical piano, graduating with a degree in music. She also worked for Japanese families tutoring their children, and returned to school to improve her English.

Seeking a new challenge, Okada began working as a companion to adults with acquired brain injury. While this work was more rewarding, she soon felt uncertain about herfuture and curiosity about the bigger world set her on a quest to follow her dreams.

Okada applied for a working-holiday Visa and landed in Vancouver.

“I was wandering. I wanted to go to Rocky Mountains to guide in Japanese.”

But then she saw a job advertised in a beautiful place with mountains: Vernon. She moved immediately and began making and selling sushi. She met her husband while working in this job, and after returning to Japan for her snowboard and to update her immigration status, they have lived and worked in the North Okanagan valley ever since.

While settling permanently, Okada received training on applying for jobs from the Vernon and District Immigrant Services Centre and volunteered to improve her English.

To meet others in the community, Okada organized free origami workshops and she taught Japanese to Canadian-born children so they could talk with their grandparents overseas. Okada still enjoys representing her Japanese heritage, reconnecting with her culture and sharing it with others.

As she became more comfortable in her new home, Okada started volunteering extensively with organizations including the Vernon Public Art Gallery, the Okanagan Science Centre, the 55+ Games, and Special Olympics.

And she’s putting her musical training into service with a local choir group.

Okada is petite with boundless energy and her capacity for giving to others also seems boundless.

She earned a certificate in Special Needs from Okanagan College and works for Kindale Developmental Association supporting adults who participate in their day programs.

She treats everyone with respect and sees her role not as ‘helping’ but as teaching people with varying abilities how to do things themselves. Okada is very aware of the significance she has in their lives. Her perspective is: ‘You’re not just there for work, you are part of their life, and you should enjoy being part of their life, creating a good memory that they can remember forever as they get older.’

Okada’s focus on creating positive days for everyone is effervescent as she shares what gives her happiness in her own life: “I like to do small things that no one has to notice.”

READ MORE: 4th annual Multicultural Champions announced


@VernonNews
newsroom@vernonmorningstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Central Okanagan Public Schools administration office in Kelowna. (File photo)
COVID-19 confirmed in 5 more Central Okanagan schools

All people who tested positive for the virus are self isolating at home

“Flower” was installed outside Interior Health’s downtown Kelowna Community Health & Services Centre on Wednesday, Nov. 25.(Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
New public art installation unveiled in downtown Kelowna

The piece, called Flower, sits in front of Interior Health’s Community Health & Services Centre on Doyle Avenue

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 70 new cases overnight

The total number of cases in the region is now at 1,426

Cranbrook business and property owners are encouraged to flush their water lines ahead of reopening. All it takes is running the cold water tap for several minutes. (Cranbrook Townsman file)
UPDATE: Water advisory issued on Westside

Westshore Estates leak repair causes need to flush system

KLO Middle School. (Google Maps)
KLO Middle School community member tests positive for COVID-19

According to SD23, the individual is self-isolating at home

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 walks in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest day of pandemic with 13 deaths, 738 new COVID-19 cases

Number of people in hospital is nearing 300, while total cases near 30,000

Penticton Law Courts
Bail hearing for Penticton man charged with sex assault, forcible confinement

Robert Sauve is facing more than 10 criminal charges

Revelstoke RCMP warn of scam after two people targeted in one day. (Black Press file photo)
Revelstoke RCMP warn of scammer pulling at heart strings

Two people in Revelstoke targeted in one day by person posing as a loved one

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
RCMP investigate suspected arson at Shuswap hunting camp

Suspicious fire took place by Scotch Creek forest service road on Oct. 24

Court of Appeal for British Columbia in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. woman loses appeal to have second child by using late husband’s sperm

Assisted Human Reproduction Act prohibits the removal of human reproductive material from a donor without consent

St. James Anglican Church, Armstrong, B.C. (Google Maps).
Prayer at North Okanagan council meetings a violation of religious neutrality: study

New study found 23 municipalities held prayer sessions at inaugural meetings in 2018, in violation of a Supreme Court decision

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

An assault charge has been filed after a 10-year-old boy was allegedly struck with a watermelon at a Shuswap campsite in August . (File photo)
Alberta woman facing assault charge after allegedly hitting boy with watermelon at Shuswap campsite

Police say a disagreement among friends at an Adams Lake campsite turned ugly

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Most Read