VJLS-JH is a non-profit society with registered charity status, and is governed by a Board of Directors. It is made up of a group of dedicated and willing individuals who share a deep commitment to its mission and vision and who reflect the balance of expertise and perspectives needed to achieve these goals. Elected by the Society (society members) every year, each board member volunteers his/her time and effort to empower staff to set forth and realize its short and long-term objectives. The Board also builds and maintains relationships with other Japanese Canadian and multicultural organizations and with the local neighbourhood in order to enhance mutual support and collaborative programming.
Board of Directors 2019-2020
Debra Saimoto, Board Chair
Debra (or Deb) Saimoto has been the board chair of VJLS-JH since 2017, continuing her involvement with the organization as an alumnus (1985) and later as a board director. She has been a longstanding supporter of the organization’s mission and potential, and believes that it is an honour to be given this opportunity to make a meaningful difference in the world, beginning by serving the board and stakeholders in the “community of communities.”
As a Conscious Visionary and Agent for Change, Deb brings her passion, energy and wisdom to lead the organization on its continuing evolving path. After graduating from UBC with a BA in English Literature, she led a substantial change transformation of her family business over 20 years, and is now a Conscious Transformational Coach. With her business acumen and coaching expertise, she brings diverse experience and expanded leadership to the organization as it transitions to a governance-based model. This strategic transition will ensure that the organization will continue to thrive in the next century of growth, especially in this new era of flux and accelerated change.
Chika Saito, Vice Chair
Chika was born and raised in Japan and immigrated to Canada in 1992.
In 2011, Chika Organized the Great East Japan Earthquake Relief fundraiser at VJLS-JH leading to her involvement on the Board and committees. She has served as a Board Director since 2013 and held the role of both Board Vice Chair and Chair. Most importantly, Chika is a mother and she is dedicated to serving the community at VJLS-JH which provided a second home to her son for 15 years.
Miyuki Ito, Treasurer
Miyuki Ito is a professional accountant and works at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. She is the Treasurer and Finance Committee Chair. She has been sharing her accounting and tax compliance knowledge with the Board and supporting VJLS-JH for several years.
Her son went to Kodomo-no-Kuni and VJLS-JH for 15 years in total and graduated from the high school in 2014. She learned how to make manju when she volunteered at the kitchen. She has been volunteering at fundraising events such as bazaars and the Powel Street Festival with her son for many years.
She decided to get involved with VJLS-JH by joining the Board of Directors when her son was in high school. She would like to continue to make a positive impact on the future direction of VJLS-JH.
Dan Enjo, Secretary
Dan Enjo brings expertise in non-profit and fundraising communications to the Board of Directors and the Community Relations Committee at VJLS-JH. A former student of the language school, he represents the third generation of family involvement in the organization and is excited to lend his strategic expertise in the transition of the organization to a multi-faceted, self-sustaining community hub.
A graduate of UBC and McGill University in English Literature, he gained career experience in the health care sector at the McGill Faculty of Medicine and the Lakeshore General Hospital Foundation in the Montreal area, then at fundraising organizations such as the Decoda Literacy Foundation and the Rick Hansen Foundation in Vancouver. Currently, he is involved in supporting provincial health research and trials as the Communications Lead of the BC Academic Health Science Network.
Hanako Amaya, Director
Hanako came to Canada 20 years ago to train and compete in acro-skiing, and stayed to study and eventually met her husband. She is a mother of two children who are students at the Vancouver Japanese Language School and Japanese Hall.
Hanako is a practicing landscape architect at the Vancouver Park Board with over 15 years of professional experience. She has built friendships within the Japanese Canadian community through managing significant projects including the Steveston Nikkei Memorial in Richmond, and through serving on the Community Relations Committee prior to joining the Board of Directors in 2019 where she now chairs the Governance Committee. She has also enjoyed the privilege of serving the broader community by sitting on advisory design panels, teaching at UBC, and mentoring interns entering the landscape architecture profession.
Pat Demens, Director
Pat’s professional career spans over 40 years working in BC’s Forest Products industry. He has held several senior management positions and focused heavily upon the Japanese market for over 15 years where he travelled extensively, gaining important insights into both business and cultural practices. In addition to VJLS-JH, his volunteer experience includes 7 years of service (including 2 as President) on the Board of Directors at a not-for-profit private club working on issues such membership growth, strategic planning, fiscal performance, governance as well as facilities improvements. Currently, in addition to sitting on the Board of Directors, he serves on the Building, Facilities and Governance Committees at VJLS-JH.
Laura Saimoto, Director
Laura Saimoto is a VJLS-JH graduate, and has continued to serve the organization as a board director and as the Project Chair of the Heritage Daycare Renovation Project.
A third-generation Japanese Canadian, she has a BA in History and Japanese (UBC), and an MA in Sociology (Sophia University, Tokyo). She brings ten years of expertise as a former market researcher and brand and marketing manager for multi-nationals in Japan. In Vancouver, her business expertise was integrated into her family’s packaging company.
Laura brings her long family history and leadership with the organization to achieve the next level of the organization’s sustainability in the Interpretive Centre Renovation Project, which will transform VJLS-JH into a vibrant community and education hub. Her parents and grandparents served as community leaders, notably with the Reestablishment Committee that reclaimed the Hall in 1952.
Steve Frost, Director
Steve Frost is an artist, author and community organizer. He is a social change consultant as well as Executive Director of Tasai, a network of creatives rooted in a dialogue between Japan & Canada.
VJLS-JH was my gateway to Powell Street and Japanese Canadian history, which has brought me closer to my own humanity, for which I am eternally grateful. I am also an adult student in the School Division.
Because of all VJLS-JH has done for me, and for the my city, I want to do my part in making sure this community thrives for another 100 years.
Mike Uyeno, Director
Mike is a third generation Japanese-Canadian, born and raised in Vancouver British Columbia. As a former student of the Vancouver Japanese Language School, the organization has been a big part of his life – both past and present. Mike enjoys giving back to the community and he has been a volunteer since 2003. Most importantly, he is most thankful to have met his wife at the school and now has his son attending the school.
Tomi Asakawa, Director
Tomi Asakawa has served as a Director of the VJLS-JH Board for over ten years. In that time, she has been a member of the Facilities Committee and the Community Impact Committee (formerly Special Community Programming). As a member of the kitchen renovation project, she provided her input and insights so that volunteers and other community groups could use and maintain the new kitchen with ease. Tomi’s journey with the VJLS-JH started when her daughter started to attend Kodomo no Kuni at the age of three, almost 20 years ago. Since then, she has volunteered her time to support many fundraising activities for the organization such as the Saturday lunch program, Food Bazaars, Powell Street Festivals, Mochitsuki events, Spring Market Fairs (Haru no Ichi), and Kimono photo sessions. Tomi enjoys working in cooperation with all of the volunteer parents, students/alumni, VJLS-JH staff and teaching staff, and community members in support of the VJLS-JH.