Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Michiko Frances Chikahisa Interview
Narrator: Michiko Frances Chikahisa
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Skokie, Illinois
Date: June 17, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-cmichiko-01-0024

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TI: And at this point you're getting close to retirement.

FC: Retiring, exactly.

TI: But you come to Chicago and you start working at the --

FC: Yeah, well, when I moved to Chicago I fully intended to retire. I thought I'd do some volunteer work, so I started looking at opportunities and the volunteer opportunities were totally unappealing, cooking meals for homeless. I mean, I don't object to that, but I don't want to do that as my principal occupation for, in terms of time. And I said to the shelter people, "I'm a trained therapist. I'd be willing to volunteer my time." They said, well, it isn't quite that easy; you have to get the approval of the board and all that. So I said forget it, it's gonna take forever, so I did apply and started a small private practice, and I did have some Japanese clients. And then they were, the agency was doing a research project --

TI: This is JASC?

FC: Japanese American Service Committee was doing a research project in which they needed some, they were gonna do focus groups and they needed facilitators. So I had already gone and visited the agency, so they knew I was a licensed social worker, and they asked me if I would like to work. So I did that for a while, and that was all volunteer, then their staff social worker resigned. And they looked around, they're looking for somebody who speaks Japanese and they couldn't find anybody except me. [Laughs] So I came in as their bilingual social worker. I had done quite a bit of counseling in Japanese in California.

TI: And what kind of social work did the agency do? I mean, what...

FC: At that point it was mostly working with seniors, and seniors who were facing health problems, housing issues, loneliness and isolation, and a lot of 'em self abused. They just didn't want any help because they didn't feel they deserved any help.

TI: So these were essentially Niseis, right? When you say senior population, these were Niseis.

FC: Niseis.

TI: Many of them who had gone through the camp experience. Okay.

FC: And they were in their, at that point, late seventies, early eighties, and so I came and the agency really was very, very undeveloped, and once I got on the staff, we started talking, since Medicare would pay for the services of a licensed clinical social worker, we set it up so I was an accredited contract provider. So people could come in, and surprisingly, at that point the agency wasn't even charging fees, and so we tried to improve the status, so we are now a professional service provider and that people come in, they use their Medicare and secondary insurances, and so we, so I could go, I did a lot of home visits because a lot of these people wouldn't come into the agency and were, but if I went and knocked on the door they would eventually be willing to talk to me. So we'd work up, get 'em situated with doctors, and if they didn't have a way to get there I would drive them. I would sit in with the doctor to make sure I understood what the patient needed. And so gradually that's the kind of service we developed.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.