Tom Ouchi is Respect Works Here’s Community Champion for January 2021. (Contributed)

Tom Ouchi is Respect Works Here’s Community Champion for January 2021. (Contributed)

Community Champion: Tom Ouchi finds gratification in helping others

Tom Ouchi is the January Community Champion

Tom Ouchi is one of those special people who help others without any judgment or expectation.

So, when he heard that a friend’s private/government co-sponsorship of a Syrian family was about to end, he was glad to offer employment to the family on his orchard. Since befriending the family, he’s helped them to integrate and settle into their new home in Canada. Not only has he provided work for them, but also transportation and food from his farm.

Tom’s empathy for the plight of immigrants goes back to hearing about the struggles his grandparents had after arriving in Canada from Japan in 1925. While his grandfather was able to secure a job in a pulp mill on the coast, unfortunately, he suffered an accident at work and lost part of his arm. The family relocated to Vernon by buying land and establishing themselves as agricultural producers of vegetables and apples. Today, Tom operates the business on the same land known as Ringo-en (Japanese for apple) Orchards on Bella Vista Road. Tom and his wife have raised their two daughters here.

Other stories heard from his mother recounts the period beginning in 1942 when Prime Minister Lyon McKenzie King signed an order to relocate citizens of Japanese descent to internment camps.

Tom’s mother was 12 years old when her family was sent to a camp in Kaslo, B.C. They lost their home, fishing boats and household items due to the internment.

“I feel I can make the biggest contribution by helping others who may be in a similar situation as my grandparents,” states Tom.

Coming from a background where he heard stories about his grandparents’ experience, he knew how people from other countries might feel after immigrating to Canada.

“I feel there is a parallel between my family history and the experience of other immigrants and I find it gratifying to be able to help wherever I can,” Tom said.

For many years, the Ouchi family has been quietly welcoming people from different cultures to Canada. Amazingly, one of his employees whose family is from India, has worked for him for the past 48 years since immigrating to the Okanagan Valley.

His interest in retaining cultural diversity in the community includes serving on the board of directors at the Japanese Cultural Centre, where many programs and events are offered to anyone who wants to learn more about Japanese culture. Currently, he is involved with the Vernon Sister City Committee.

The first Sister City was Modesto, Calif., and there are now five other cities from different parts of the world included. The mandate of the committee is to foster a favourable climate for the exchange of information and cultural experiences between the cities of Vernon and its Sister Cities.

Tom’s philosophy is to help provide a greater understanding of cultural issues.

“People have to treat each other as equals, regardless of their views. If we can look at each other with compassion and respect it will ripple out to others, as we are all human beings.”

The monthly Community Champion feature is submitted by Respect Works Here, which is an initiative of the Social Planning Council of the North Okanagan. They are also the host agency for the Local Immigration Partnership Council and the Thompson Okanagan Respect Network.

READ MORE: Community Champion: Hugh Carter celebrates teamwork in volunteering

READ MORE: Vernon Winter Carnival Ice Park construction begins

twitter.com

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

Just Posted

Community Foundation North Okanagan is now accepting applications for its annual Smart and Caring Community Grants program. (CFNO photo)
Cash available for North Okanagan non-profits

Community Foundation North Okanagan seeks applicants for its annual Smart and Caring Grants program

The current B.C. Men’s curling champions, Rick Sawatsky (Vernon and now living and working in Kelowna, from left), Andrew Nerpin (Kelowna), Jim Cotter (Vernon) and Steve Laycock (Saskatoon), have yet to find the win column at the 2021 Tim Hortons Brier in Calgary. (Black Press - file photo)
B.C. looking for Brier victory

Team B.C. falls to 0-2 Sunday, March 7, with 10-7 loss to Wild Card 1 entry from Manitoba

Forty-seven vaccination clinics will open across Interior Health beginning March 15. (Canadian Press)
48 COVID-19 vaccine clinics to open across Interior Health

Select groups can book appointments starting Monday

Forty-seven vaccination clinics will open across Interior Health beginning March 15. (Canadian Press)
48 COVID-19 vaccine clinics to open across Interior Health

Select groups can book appointments starting Monday

Coldstream’s Kalamalka Secondary has teamed up with Globox on a fundraising raffle for its graduating class of 2021. (Photo supplied)
Coldstream secondary school grads glowing over fundraiser

Globox giving away five gift boxes worth about $6,000 in raffle, proceeds to Kal’s Class of ‘21

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Tam says the addition of two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster

Const. Allan Young. Photo: Abbotsford Police Department
Manslaughter charge laid in Nelson death of Abbotsford police officer

Allan Young died after an incident in downtown Nelson last summer

Kelowna General Hospital (File photo)
One of two Kelowna General Hospital COVID-19 outbreaks declared over

One outbreak declared over after two deaths, seven cases; another outbreak remains ongoing in the hospital

Cottonwoods Care Home in Kelowna. (Google Maps)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Kelowna care home after 12 cases noted

Two staff members and 10 residents at Cottonwoods Care Centre have tested positive for COVID-19

There is no true picture of how many youth in Penticton are experiencing housing instability or true homelessness. The Foundry and the city of Penticton are trying to find that out.
How many youth are experiencing homelessness in Penticton?

Foundry Penticton and the City have partnered on a youth survey open until March 13

Chelsea Ishizuka was borned and raised in Penticton but has now moved to Japan. When she found out there was a popular restaurant there named after Penticton, she had to go check it out. Here she is with the owner (right). (Facebook)
Popular restaurant in Japan named after city of Penticton

A Pentictonite now living in Tokyo discovered the eatery and the history behind its name

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

Sarah Cotton-Elliott said she believed her children took a back seat to arranging equal parenting

Most Read