Yokohama families get support

By on April 7, 2014
Being a new parent in an environment away from home means a whole new way of getting on with life. New life new rules, and for those with little to no knowledge of the local language, things can get even more challenging. While an addition to the family is a joy, the transition can be a lonely time without networks or a community to connect with for advice and support.

Ana Isabel de Blas and Rena Yamamoto, coordinators of The Toddlers’ Group


The Toddlers’ Group
Saint Maur International School’s Board Chairperson and ex Head of School Jeanette Thomas realized early on that she had to create a venue for moms with under-school age children to meet other incoming moms from abroad or from other parts of Japan.  Six years ago, she did just that.  She founded The Toddlers’ group and opened its doors to mothers who did not belong to any social club or churches and had no opportunity of meeting other moms.

Six years later, more families have been benefiting from The Toddlers’ Group. Parents find them through the school’s website or via word of mouth.

The group is currently looked after by coordinators Ana Isabel de Blas and Rena Yamamoto, both of whom are Saint Maur International School’s parent volunteers. Ana Isabel describes the group as “an opportunity to forge new friendships with other mothers, helping to make their adjustment to Japan easier and less stressful. By discussing common concerns with other mothers, they are able to obtain advice and insight about life in Japan. The children learn to play with others in their age group and enjoy participating in special activities which are conducted by other parent volunteers such as the monthly “Mom-Baby Massage” class offered by Cecile Douin (former mid-wife), the monthly “Rhythm Activities” offered by Anita Walus, who doubles as  the Adult Enrichment Volunteer Parent Liaison assisting with the coordination of the Adult Enrichment Program and the monthly and seasonal celebrations.”
Parents with children not enrolled at SMIS can also join.

Adult Enrichment Program
Not only toddlers are looked after at the SMIS community but adults as well.  Under the Adult Enrichment Program founded 22 years ago by Jeanette Thomas, parents whose children are enrolled at Saint Maur can participate in enrichment programs offered at the school. Parents with no children at Saint Maur may also participate in classes with certain conditions. Classes on offer range from computers to cooking, crafts and conversation (French, Spanish, English, Thai and Japanese) book club, nutrition and faith seminars, first-aid training and certification, including Japanese culture lessons and cultural excursions. Music, sports and arts are also offered all year.  Phyllis Engstrom oversees the program as director.


Soccer program at Saint Maur International School

Parents and schools encourage children to participate or engage in physical activities outside of the school setting for a reason. Sports and after-school programs for children are important mediums for physical, social and emotional development.

A school is generally rated according to its responsiveness to the needs of the community. Yokohama families come from a diverse group and thus have specific needs. How these needs are met by schools enhances its standing in the community.

“This is absolutely one of our strengths as a school.  Students are encouraged to be Balanced Learners by participating in a wide variety of clubs, sports, and fine arts activities.
For the Secondary, we have a special after-school schedule that allows students to participate in both Sports and Fine Arts,” assures Trent Citrano, SMIS’s Secondary School Principal.

From Baseball to Ballet, Soccer to Basketball, the Saint Maur International School has a wide range of on/off campus activities for specific needs.

To find out more about these programs,  www.

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