Toko Komura – Japanese Salvation Army School Teacher in Kingston

Toko Komura is from Kanagwa (Chigasaki) near Tokyo in Japan. Trained in tutoring the blind, she now teaches swimming and physical education at the Salvation Army School for the Blind in Kingston. A love affair with the sea and with children has made this the perfect career choice for her. “I love feeling free and I am an energetic person, so I go to the sea every week. Looking up at the sky every day and swimming in the pool also make me feel free,” she tells Outlook. Toku came to Jamaica, she said, because “one of my dreams was to work with children all over the world. I love swimming and so when the Japanese Overseas Volunteer programme asked for a swimming instructor, it was my joy and my dream come true. I took the examinations and passed, now I am here.” At the Salvation Army School for the Blind, the instructor says, “Everyone calls me Ms. Toko. I take care of the pool every day so students name the pool ‘Ms. Toko’s baby’. I feel happy when I hear that.”

Some of the students are blind and others are wards of the state. The volunteer also teaches Japanese culture to her young students. At the Salvation Army School, the swimming pool – 25 feet wide by 55 feet long – has a depth of 3 to 6 feet, which is able to facilitate from the smallest students to teachers who are taught by Toko in the evenings. Toko explains, “My work is not only teaching students how to swim but keeping the pool’s water clear (blue) every day and making sure the students are safe every time at the pool.”

Safety management

Other duties include management of the safety at the pool, management of the students’ health care, and management of the pool water quality.

She explains, “I try to open the pool as much as possible (class time, after school and during holidays) because I want the students to get more swimming experience.”

She aims not merely to teach them how to keep afloat and move in water, but also how to enjoy the experience which is shared with other students.

“I want to teach them how to smile with each other and how to make life more enjoyable in the swimming class (at the swimming pool). I also want to teach them if they want to play peacefully under the water, they need to think for themselves about each other’s company, they have to understand their friends’ likes and understand that people have different personalities.”

Toko says, “I want to enjoy swimming with my students, other teachers, other staffs, a lot of Jamaican people as much as possible.”

The Japanese woman explains that she has always loved the water.

“I love swimming. I learnt my skill at the pool and I would swim at the sea as well. My home is by the seaside. I also studied marine biology and know the new world under the water.”

Energy from the beautiful blue

In Japan, she said, “I met a lot of people who have made the sea a part of their lives and I would get energy from the beautiful blue.”

She recalls that when she came here, every day the students asked, “Can we swim?” And they watched as the pool was being cleaned. It was discovered that there was a pump problem which was fixed so that the pool returned to well-water condition. Now, it is used every day.

Toko comments, “We put in black shock to keep the pool water crystal clear. The pool man comes once a week.”

The tutor’s swimming class includes instructions in safety and health care. “I told students how to take care of their condition by themselves.”

Toko Komura also runs a lifeguard competition to ensure that everyone keeps the safety measures in mind. There are also regular swimming competitions among the students, who also participate in one to see who can dive under the water longest.

Toko reflects: “One year has passed since I came to Jamaica. Fortunately, I enjoy my Jamaican life with my students.”

Her assignment will end in December 2007 and the Japanese woman states, “I want to stay here more (than she wants to go home) but that will be the end of the assignment.”

But she will always remember Jamaica.

“In Jamaica, I have met a lot of warm-hearted people. I love my students, they have a lot of energy. The human heart here is warm.

“Thank you very much.”

Source – Jamaica Gleaner