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Akiko on the left with Coordinator Mika Watanabe in front of DSS office.
Photo Courtesy of Akiko Wako.  Wako on the left with Coordinator Mika Watanabe. 

Disability Services for Students was delighted to hear from Akiko Wako, a University of Montana graduate, who recently visited Missoula from Japan during her summer vacation. 

After Akiko earned her bachelor’s degree from the School of Business Administration in 2004, she worked for two companies in the United States. In the summer of 2012, a surprising email from Caritas Switzerland engineered Akiko’s career change. 

Caritas Switzerland is a multi-functional relief agency with its head office in Lucerne. Caritas Switzerland helps people in need in Switzerland and worldwide in more than forty countries. Its umbrella organization, called Caritas International, is one of the six largest non-governmental organizations around the world.  Under Caritas International, there are over 165 organizations, including Caritas Switzerland, and those organizations are active in more than 200 countries.

The email from Caritas Switzerland invited Akiko to accept the Local Project Coordination and Interpreting position in the Iwate Prefecture, which was badly affected by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.   

Through the organization, Akiko coordinates and facilitates rehabilitation projects in the Iwate area by closely working with Japanese government authorities and four nurseries that were destroyed by the 2011 tsunami.     

“Without the support from Disability Services for Students, I would not be here today," Akiko says. "Disability Services allowed me to have access for using a note taker and also for having the extended test time. I deeply feel blessed by the fact that Disability Services gave me a level playing field to earn my bachelor’s degree. I cannot imagine what it would be like today if I did everything all by myself back then.

"For current UM students, I highly encourage you not to be hesitant to knock at the door of Disability Services if you feel that you are not performing as well as you used to perform because you are suffering from a physical or emotional incapability," Akiko says. "Just ‘one knock’ might help lead you to achieve your dream and goal.

"I will keep doing my best for the project I am in now, and also do the same for pursuing my dreams. I deeply wish for your college life to be the fruitful one! Never give up on yourself and your talent!”