Lessons in Caring: LTSC Social Worker Yasuyo Abo Shares Her Story, Why Her Work Matters - Little Tokyo Service Center

Lessons in Caring: LTSC Social Worker Yasuyo Abo Shares Her Story, Why Her Work Matters

Lessons in Caring: LTSC Social Worker Yasuyo Abo Shares Her Story, Why Her Work Matters

By Yasuyo Abo

As a middle schooler, I was admitted to a children’s hospital and saw small children enduring painful treatment. It was when I first became interested in social work. With my parents’ suggestion, I started to volunteer in mainly local nursing homes. I learned how to change diapers, assist them to take baths and eat, and converse with seniors with dementia, which was all new yet fascinating to me.

At college, I volunteered at a unique facility that works as a “safety net” in a society. The residents there suffered mainly from mental illness or two or more disabilities (e.g., schizophrenia + developmental disability), so they were never capable of being independent in a society, nor were they accepted in other facilities. I had never met such people before; I was scared and confused. But I slowly learned that each person’s uniqueness includes their disability, personality, problems, dreams, and hopes. And most of all, I learned the importance of “respecting the individual,” which is fundamental to social work. I was also fascinated to be part of the team struggling to enrich the daily lives of the individuals in the limited environment and to figure out how they could help the individuals who aimed to be independent.

After graduating college, I came to the U.S. to study social work. I first went to a language school and proceeded to a graduate school. With very limited English communication skills and understanding of American society, it was extremely challenging for me to acquire a degree in social work, as social workers work closely with people and the lives of the people in the society. Classes, assignments, and internships, among other things, were all overwhelming. And still, I barely had any support as my family and friends were going back to Japan one after another. I struggled daily to face my own loneliness, abilities, and limits. But I can say now that it was all a necessary challenge for me.

After getting my MSW, I worked at an Adult Day Health Center and nursing home. I have been with LTSC since 2019. Currently, I work with clients who experience numerous issues, such as mental health issues, drug addiction, homelessness, and domestic violence survivors, and we work together to find the best approach for them. We face many challenges as social workers. Each client’s problems are unique, and there is no “one-size fits all” solution, nor do we always have the answer or solution. Moreover, it is not uncommon to experience difficulties in living a normal life in a complex society like Los Angeles. Personal problems can be especially difficult to talk about, and sometimes people do not know who to talk to. But I hope they feel safe and comfortable reaching out to us so we can walk with them through their journey of life.

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