a man in black sweater, woman in brown long sleeve, and man in gray jacket
man with beanie, man with black jacket, and woman with black zip up

Since 2006, Keiro connected with the Nikkei Senior Network (NSN), a network of community leaders who serve older adults in their local communities. The group serves to not only stay connected with Keiro and each other, but to also inspire our community to take action on topics that could help improve their senior members’ quality of life. The overarching theme of these meetings in 2023 was security, with a focus on emergency preparedness. In order to discuss emergency preparedness with the community leaders, Keiro scheduled NSN meetings throughout the year. The meetings would cover different topics ranging from installing cameras around a community center to how to prepare an emergency go-bag.

Various groups contributed to the safety and security of older adults in the community, through implementing new monthly safety walkthroughs, hosting fire drills, or meeting with local fire departments for tips to remain safe. All groups found unique ways to tackle this topic to elevate their communities.

Preparing for Survival in a Pinch

Keiro’s team visited Pasadena Nikkei Seniors (PNS) in February 2023 to present on what to pack in a go-bag — a packed bag with items that you would most likely need in an emergency. After the presentation, PNS leaders were inspired and realized that they wanted to make sure their community was prepared for emergencies. Although there are options to buy a premade go-bag, those tend to be expensive. As a solution, Scott, Jane, and Ron, members of PNS, came together to create their own go-bag for their members. 

blue duffel bag

They bought individual items that could fit in a compact, zip-up bag that is no larger than a wallet. A first aid kit, as well as forms for their members to fill out with their contact information, medications, and medical history, were some of the items that were included in the duffle bag. Additionally, the bag also included an emergency space blanket, flashlight, rain parkas, along with a suggested checklist of other personal items to pack. As an added bonus, one of their member’s daughters designed the logo on the bag that says “PNS Go-Bag”. Scott said, “We explained the purpose and suggested what additional items to have in the bag since you can customize the bag to what your needs are. But whatever you do, you should always include the essential items in the (information) packet.”

The successful kick-off of PNS’s emergency preparedness program has allowed them to deliver 70 bags to their community members. Their hope for the future is to not only provide more Go-Bags to other PNS members, but to also procure other items that would be helpful in the event of an emergency.  

The Neighborhood Watch of Little Tokyo

In the last decade, there has been an increase in car break-ins, thefts, and trespassing in downtown Los Angeles. As community members of Zenshuji Soto Mission in Little Tokyo, Reverend Shumyo Kojima and Amy have been working to keep their community safe within the temple’s property. With some suggestions from the NSN meetings, they began updating their security measures. 

security camera

In 2023, Zenshuji installed security cameras around the property. Through these security cameras, they are now able to strategize ways to prevent the unhoused from getting on their property and monitor activity such as break-ins. On top of installing new cameras, they also replaced and installed new lights outside. 

Amy and Kojima-sensei have also cultivated relationships with nearby residents as they have a small “neighborhood watch program,” where community members are made aware to report any suspicious activity in the area. For example, a long-time neighbor resident, Brian, has a bird’s eye view of the temple where he is able to also report to them on what is happening on the streets. Within the last seven years, they have also hired a security guard named Jaime who, according to Amy, is part of the Zenshuji family. 

Through this little network, Zenshuji Soto Mission can still serve as a safe haven to their community. Although some crime and the unhoused visitors tend to slip through the cracks, Kojima-sensei and Amy feel more at ease on how to handle these challenges. 

Zenshuji Temple’s goal for the new year is to create a larger network of neighborhood watches and to install more security cameras to increase their eyes in the neighborhood. Amy believes that “it’s important to connect the organizations. It’s kind of been good for [those who] maybe not aware of each other.”

She also commented, “[Having these NSN meetings] are a good reminder for us about what we are doing… and prompt us to review and also to share what other people are doing.” Keiro continues to connect and support those who are willing to take the challenge and cannot wait to see what the Nikkei Senior Network will bring in years to come.