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Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010

News photo
For a good cause: Participants place bids during Tokyo English Life Line's annual auction in November 2008 at the Canadian Embassy. COURTESY OF TELL

Lifeline to hold charity auction

Staff writer

Tokyo English Life Line, a nonprofit organization that offers multilingual counseling, will hold a charity auction Nov. 5 to raise funds for its activities.

The 15th Annual Connoisseurs' Auction, to be held at the Italian ambassador's official residence, will include an auction of premier wines and luxury goods, and a raffle. People interested in supporting the organization can buy tickets for the event, which will also include an Italian cocktail buffet and wine tasting.

According to Lori Wigmore, director of Children and Families at TELL's counseling center, charity events are important activities for the organization, as 50 percent of its operating budget relies on donations and grants from companies, individuals and fundraising at events. "The other half (of the budget) is covered by counseling fees," she said.

The group regularly organizes other charity events, including a children's ballet and a walk/run around the Imperial Palace, which attracts about 1,000 people.

TELL, which originally started in 1973, offers free and confidential English telephone counseling by trained volunteer counselors, as well as face-to-face professional counseling offered in English, Japanese, German, Spanish, French and Portuguese.

Last year, it added a professional counseling program specifically for children with academic, emotional, behavioral or family problems, some of whom receive the counseling along with their parents.

TELL is a member of the Federation of Inochi no Denwa, which comprises mostly Japanese-language lifeline services in Japan. It is the only institution outside the United States to be accredited by the Samaritan Institute, a nonprofit organization based in Colorado that manages an international network of counseling centers, the group says.

Wanting to offer their services to foreign and Japanese youths in this country, TELL staff have reached out to 11 international schools, and visited them to inform children and teachers about its programs.

TELL's lifeline receives between 6,000 and 7,000 calls every year, from people seeking advice on their problems or those asking for information, including where they can find an English-speaking doctor.

Many of the people seeking counseling complain of depression and anxiety, while others need advice on relationships at home and at work, problems concerning cultural adjustment, employment, legal and medical problems, and issues related to suicide, said Jason Chare, director of TELL's Life Line Services.

Chare said the number of Japanese callers has increased in recent years, and at present, 60 percent of the calls come from Japanese.

"Honestly, they are so desperate," he said. "They try (to call us) even with their poor English ability. They try to get across to Inochi no Denwa first, but when the line is busy, they tend to call us. Even speaking to someone that you believe doesn't even understand what you're saying, it means something to the caller to be able to talk to someone."

Another recent trend is that an increasing number of calls are from Japanese returnees from abroad, especially teenagers. "If you're bilingual and you're having trouble readjusting to life in Japan, and you want to talk about it, I think you feel more comfortable expressing yourself in English (than in Japanese)," said Chare.

Chare said a future goal of TELL is to extend the operating hours of the telephone lifeline, which is manned 365 days a year from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., to 24 hours a day.

"Lifelines are especially important at nighttime. If someone is in a desperate, desperate state at 3 in the morning, and they can't call the counselor or a friend, a counseling line is a great place they can turn to," he said. "The lifeline is a safe place. We don't ask questions, we don't make judgments, we just listen. It means something to the person (who calls) just to be able to talk."

For more information on TELL, visit www.telljp.com or call (03) 4550-1191. For information on its events, e-mail event@telljp.com.

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