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

Just Posted

Starting in 2022, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District is extending dog control to the entire Electoral Area D area. (Stock photo)
Dog control bylaw passes in Shuswap area despite ‘threatening’ emails

CSRD board extending full dog control to Electoral Area D; director calls for respectful discussion

The new Civic Memorial Park will incorporate pieces of the 80-year-old arena it replaces. (Artists rendering)
Pieces of Civic Arena reclaimed for new Vernon park

City centre space to incorporate wood from the historic arena

Fruit farmers in the Okanagan and Creston valleys are in desperate need of cherry harvesters amid COVID-19 work shortages. (Photo: Unsplash/Abigail Miller)
‘Desperate’ need for workers at Okanagan cherry farms

Fruit farmers are worried they’ll have to abandon crops due to COVID-19 work shortages

A motorycle crash has been reported on Westside Road. (Google Maps)
UPDATE: Westside Road reopened following motorcycle crash near Vernon

AIM Roads advises drivers to expect delays due to congestion

An Armstrong family that lost their home to a fire on Wednesday still hasn’t found their cat as of Friday, June 18, 2021. (Facebook photo)
Family cat still missing, days after fire destroys Armstrong home

There were no injuries from Wednesday’s blaze, but two days later there’s still no sign of the white feline

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed Eli Beauregard facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Patrick O’Brien, a 75-year-old fisherman, went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search for lost fisherman near Victoria suspended, U.S. Coast Guard says

The 75-year-old man was reported missing Thursday evening

Most Read