Toshi, left, and Tosh Okamoto at the Nikkei Manor. • Courtesy Photo
Toshi, left, and Tosh Okamoto at the Nikkei Manor. • Courtesy Photo

A longtime community activist who led efforts to protect the welfare of Japanese American seniors, and a Seattle public school dedicated to helping immigrant children reach their academic potentials, have been named recipients of the 2015 Bamboo Award for Health by the International Community Health Services (ICHS) Foundation.

Tosh Okamoto, a co-founder of Nikkei Concerns, and Seattle World School, a public school that helps immigrant children fully participate in American society, have been recognized with the Bamboo Award for Health, which, each year, honors one individual and one organization whose works have improved the lives of ICHS’ target populations of disadvantaged and underserved residents.

The award will be presented to Okamoto and Seattle World School on May 8 during the 2015 Bloom Gala at the Westin Seattle Hotel.

“We take special delight in presenting the 2015 Bamboo Award for Health to Tosh Okamoto and Seattle World School because they both exemplify the best in selfless support for the ICHS mission of providing culturally and linguistically appropriate health services to improve the health of Asian Pacific Islanders and the broader community,” ICHS Foundation Executive Director Ron Chew said.

Okamoto, 88, a military veteran who was on the board of Nikkei Concerns up until a decade ago, worked with his colleagues to champion the rights and well being of Japanese American seniors. One of their achievements was construction of Nikkei Manor, which provides affordable housing for the elderly, and where Okamoto and his wife, Toshi, now live.

“I’m very humbled to be selected for this award. Actually, I’m embarrassed. It’s really the whole community that should get the award. (Former Uwajimaya CEO) Tomio Moriguchi and I helped point the way on Nikkei Concerns, but many other people helped follow through and made it happen. This is really the community’s award,” he said.

Established in 1980 as the Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center (SBOC), Seattle World School has evolved to become one of the few schools in the state to offer basic English training and academic skills development for immigrant children.

With funding from the City of Seattle’s Families and Education Levy, ICHS and Seattle World School partnered in 2011 to provide on-site, culture and language-appropriate medical, dental, and behavioral health care for the students, many of whom come from refugee families.

“We are very excited to receive the award because we are very proud of the partnership between Seattle World School and ICHS; we do not feel that it’s a separate entity, but a true part of our school,” said Concie Pedroza, principal of Seattle World School.

“My wish is for this partnership to remain strong and for ICHS to be able to do more, not just here but in other public schools. They really should be fully funded so that they can get to do more,” she said.

Tickets are now available for the 2015 ICHS Bloom Gala, which raises money for charity care at ICHS clinics. For ticket and other information, visit

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