Pursuing Equality in Japan

Day 1 of TELL's Covid-19 Conference

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Over the past year, the global pandemic has upended our lives and impacted all aspects of our life – including mental health. As the number of cases of COVID-19 increased, so did the experiences of anxiety, depression, and sadly suicidal ideation.

At TELL, we know that the mental health effects of COVID-19 are as important to address as the physical health effects, as are the need to address the inequities in accessing care and support. The pandemic has highlighted inequalities, both across and within countries, particularly exposing the disadvantages women and youth face, such as lack of childcare, need to facilitate online learning for children and many other unpaid roles, loss of employment, primary frontline and care worker exposure, in addition to many others. 

As part of TELL’s 2021 initiatives, we want to raise awareness of this critical issue, and to inspire change, break down barriers and empower mental wellbeing and resilience to all. 

We are excited to be bringing together speakers from across a wide range of groups – peers, schools, the workplace, community stakeholders, more to inspire, educate and empower each other to take charge of their mental health and cultivate resilience and well-being.

  • INSPIRATION : Get inspired by the conversations and personal experiences of some of the presenters

  • EDUCATION : Explore barriers & pathways to improve mental health and wellbeing to all sectors of our community, and especially women and youth.

  • EMPOWERMENT : Learn skills and strategies on how to cultivate resilience & wellbeing.

We are so excited to be hosting our first conference on mental health equality. Any donations, sponsorships or funds raised by this conference will go towards helping fund our Lifeline, as we strive to support those who are struggling in our community as a result of COVID-19 and bring down the number of suicides in Japan.

Join us this April by registering for the conference below.

Interested in sponsoring?

Contact Kathryn Sheppard at development@telljp.com


Gretchen Miura

Gretchen Miura

Grief & Loss in COVID

Gretchen lives in northern Japan where she and her husband run a Zen temple with a history dating back 500 years. As a certified mindfulness meditation teacher, she leads workshops, classes and retreats, as well as hosts traditional Buddhist ceremonies and outreach programs. Deeply rooted in her local community, she has cultivated meaningful relationships with the temples` members. Gretchen strives to make mindfulness accessible to everyone as a way to help build emotional resilience and foster a sense of connection.  She explores topics of belonging, motherhood and grief. Spending time in nature and resting in silence are integral parts of her practice. 


Gretchen received her undergraduate degree in Anthropology from Santa Clara University with an emphasis on Tibetan refugee communities in California. After having the opportunity to study in Nepal and travel throughout Asia, she began meditating in college. She came to Japan as an ALT English teacher where she continued to learn about Buddhism and eventually married a Soto-shu Zen Buddist priest. They are raising four children together.


Drawing on her 20 years of life at the temple, Gretchen hopes to integrate elements of ritual, spirituality, creativity and meditation in her teachings.


Akiko Ogawa

Lunchtime Activity  (Movement Based)

Akiko is a bilingual psychotherapist in English and Japanese licensed in the UK and is a professionally registered member of the Association for Dance Movement Psychotherapy UK.

Akiko values the wisdom in the body and the body-mind connection. She focuses on holding a non-judgmental safe space where collaborative work with her clients can take place through creative processes to support their journeys of understanding themselves and their relationships better.

Akiko works with both adult and child clients with symptoms of depression, anxiety, PTSD, personality disorders, eating disorders, schizophrenia, and those who are struggling with interpersonal, attachment, cultural adjustment issues and self-esteem. 

Kathryn Sheppard

Introducing Dr. Cvetkovik

Kathryn joined TELL in 2019 after her family relocated from Houston, Texas. Originally from Los Angeles, Kathryn has lived and worked internationally for many years, including across Asia and the Middle East.

She has experience working in development for health-related nonprofits in Canada, the United States, and now Japan. She is passionate about working with companies to build partnerships that strengthen and broaden the resources available to employees and management. Kathryn graduated from Colgate University in New York, and is currently pursuing an MBA at Fox School of Business, Japan Campus.

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Gender Diversity in COVID

Mai, a native of Berkeley, California, has lived overseas since 1984. After 4 years in London mixing studying with fun, she moved to Heidelberg, Germany to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Schiller International University in 1989. Shortly after that, in 1990, she moved to Tokyo and has been here ever since. Initially a language instructor at GEOS, she taught Mr. Minoru Mori private lessons for 4 years at which point he invited her to join the firm in 1997. 

The first assignment was in Shanghai for 3 years doing leasing of the then current Senmao Bldg., later to be known as HSBC Tower. Following that she attended a company sponsored MBA at University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business (now Booth). She continued in the Office Leasing section, followed by 5 years in Residential Leasing, and then to the Strategic Planning Dept. Currently, and for the past 6 years she has headed the Bilingual Communications Section (Comms, translation, quality control & training). 

Mai started living full-time as a woman in her private life in 2015 and within the company and everywhere else in 2016.

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Nancy Snow

Gender Diversity in COVID

Dr. Snow received her Ph.D. in International Relations (magna cum laude) from the School of International Service, The American University, Washington, D.C. She earned a B.A. in Political Science (summa cum laude) from Clemson University, South Carolina.

Snow studied graduate German politics and history at the University of California, Berkeley as a Fellow of the German Academic Exchange Service. A Fulbright scholar to Germany, she completed graduate study in German and Political Science at the universities of Regensburg, Bayreuth, and Freiburg.

Dr. Snow is California State Fullerton professor emeritus of communications and a professor of diplomacy at Kyoto University of Foreign Studies. She has edited and authored thirteen books and emphasizes gender and diplomacy in her research.

Chikako Ishii

Grief & Loss in COVID

Chikako Ishii is a family therapist at TELL Counseling specializing in loss and grief. Her recent publication includes the COVID-19 Pandemic and Families in Japan (2021 in English) and Ambiguous Loss and Family Resilience: New approaches to disaster support (2019 in Japanese).


She is an approved supervisor of the American Association for Marriage and
Family Therapy (AAMFT) and a core member of Japan Disaster Grief Support (JDGS) Project. Chikako talks about the loss associated with disasters and in particular COVID-19 through the lens of ambiguous loss.


You will learn about
1. Understanding the impacts of women and youth in COVID-19 through
ambiguous loss lens
2. Pursuing resilience in family and community

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Vickie Skorji

Welcome Remarks

Vickie Skorji has an undergraduate in Behavioral Sciences from La Trobe University, and a Masters in Counseling from Monash University in Australia, with specialist training in neuropsychology. During her time in Australia, she worked with individuals and families with acquired brain injuries, creating carer education programs and carer support manuals. Since 2004, Vickie has worked with TELL in a variety of capacities from a volunteer on the Lifeline, TELL training coordinator, to a therapist with TELL counselling, and in 2013 became the Lifeline Director.

During her time at TELL she has developed a range of suicide prevention, mental health, and psychological first aid programs, aimed at addressing the countries high suicide rates and the stigma surrounding mental health. She also has special interests in youth mental health issues, stress management, cultural adjustment, sexual assault & domestic violence.

Ayana Wyse

Ayana Wyse

Minority Groups and Mental Health

Ayana Wyse is a community leader who founded the Black Creatives Japan collective and volunteers for Black Lives Matter Kansai and Black Women in Japan. She has done a great deal in bringing foreign residents and the Japanese community together through charities and cultural events, as well as having been a key component in the organization of the BLM Kansai march, led in solidarity of the Black Lives Matters movement during the summer of 2020.

She has been in Japan since 2011, arriving a week before the Great Tohoku Earthquake. Living in Japan has greatly changed her life and perspective in regards to the understanding of identity, humanity and empathy. This has led her to become more conscious of society’s varying injustices towards marginalized communities, mental illnesses, the importance of volunteering and much more.

Wyse will share her experiences living in Japan as a minority (foreign, Black, and a woman), the mental health issues minority groups face in Japan and how she hopes things can change in the future.

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Jenny Reed

Minority Groups and Mental Health

Jenny Reed is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, licensed through the State of Florida, and current Clinical Site Supervisor of TELL’s Okinawa office. Prior to moving to Okinawa, Jenny spent 15 years of her career in Orlando, Florida, providing trauma-informed care in the field of child abuse through social work and psychotherapy.


Her work experience includes managing high acuity behavioral health services for managed care, providing court ordered mental health assessments and therapy, and completing forensic interviews for cases of child abuse. 


Jenny’s passion is in treating individuals with complex trauma and anxiety so as to stop cycles of abuse and intergenerational trauma in order to help these individuals live healthy and rewarding lives. 

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Dr. Andrijana Cvetkovikj

Pursuing Gender Equality in COVID

Dr. Cvetkovikj was the first and the youngest ambassador of Macedonia in Japan from 2014-2018. 

Fluent in Japanese, English, Macedonian, Serbian and Russian -Andrijana grew up in Macedonia and has lived in the USA, Europe, and Japan for the last 17 years. For two decades, Cvetkovikj has worked internationally in senior executive roles in strategy, business development, A.I., and public relations.


She also served as a strategic advisor to several executives in Japan, including as an Advisory Board member of Cartier-Japan, JATA (Japan Association of Tourist Operators), and currently sit on the Board of Del Sole Corporation, the first company led by a woman (Merle Aiko Okawara) to be listed on the Japanese stock exchange. In addition, she serves as an advisor to the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Foundation.


Dr. Cvetkovikj is a committed advocate on diversity, inclusion, and the promotion of the UN’s SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), and has demonstrated her leadership in this area. She advocated for these issues as a speaker at the World Economic Forum 2016, UN’s Conference for Climate Change in Tohoku, and by organizing the “Ambassador’s Roundtable Meeting with Governor of Tokyo- Yuriko Koike, where she delivered the “Resolution for gender inclusion and empowering women through sports and culture” endorsed by all-female ambassadors in Tokyo. She also served as a Jury Member of Miss International several times  and initiated the Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative. Dr. Cvetkovikj leads the consulting firm BrioNexus KK, as a CEO & President. 

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Sarah Furuya

Activity Session

Sarah has been living and working in Japan since 2001. She is a trained Organisational and Relationship Systems Coach ORSC™, a certified practitioner in Saville Wave™ and aptitude assessments and Lumina Spark® psychometrics and holds a BSc Hons in Human Psychology and Human Biology from the University of Aston in Birmingham. Originally from the UK, she worked in management in the Beverage then Telecoms industries before moving to Japan. She spent 8 years as the Learning and Development Coordinator in a corporate training company working closely with key client Microsoft and other domestic and international clients across industries.


In 2012 she started a coaching business, in addition to being the Senior Consultant and Executive Coach for a talent development agency in Tokyo. She is a guest facilitator in Psychometrics and Coaching at Temple University Japan. She has taken hundreds of people through coaching programmes and opens an exclusive year-long programme for people who want to upgrade their lives and commit to long-term accountability including monthly calls, groups sessions and content. She has contributed to the British Chamber of Commerce’s Acumen Magazine on the Future of HR, Spoken on BBC’s Business Matters on Women in Business in Japan, was a workshop leader on bringing your whole self to work at the Women’s International Networking Conference, a speaker on protecting the female pipeline and developing female management talent at the HR Conference in Tokyo and Osaka. Her CSR activity includes being a board member of Refugees International Japan and runs Tokyo’s largest clothing exchange, which raises money for charities and promotes sustainability.

Nobuko Kobayashi

Workplace and The New Normal

Ms. Kobayashi is Partner and Managing Director with EY-Parthenon, a strategic consulting arm within EY Strategy and Transactions. She is also the Asia-Pacific Strategy Execution Leader, the Japan representative for the Geostrategic Business Group, and is the Global Client Services Partner for Shiseido.


She has 10+ years of management consulting experience in Japan with a focus on growth strategy for consumer and retail sector.  Her clients include both Japanese and multi-national corporations.

Previously, Ms. Kobayashi worked as an analyst for a US activist fund as well as a senior investment professional for Mitsubishi International Corporation based in New York City.


As a thought leader representing EY Japan, Ms. Kobayashi maintains an active media profile including regularly contributing Opinions to Nikkei Asian Review and appearing on Bloomberg and BBC analyzing Japanese economy and industry. She is a frequent speaker at international conferences including the Asian Pacific Konference organized by the German government and the German Chambers of Commerce. Fluent in Japanese and English, conversational in French.


Nuala Connolly

Workplace and The New Normal

Nuala Connolly is Head of Talent and Deputy Head of HR for AIG Japan Holdings K.K. In this role Nuala is accountable for all aspects of the talent agenda for the approximately 8,000 employees across the AIG group in Japan, with a focus on Talent Management, Talent Acquisition, Early Careers, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Nuala joined the AIG Group in 2012 as Program Director in the HR Function where she delivered a number of programs across the Asia Pacific region, including a lead position in culture transformation efforts in Japan prior to the two largest operating companies AIU and Fuji Fire & Marine merging to form AIG General Insurance, Japan’s largest foreign property and casualty insurance company.

Nuala was President of the Association for Women in Finance between 2006 and 2008 and continues to serve on the board as President Emeritus.  From 2021, Nuala has served as Co-Chair of the ACCJ’s Women in Business Committee which strives to educate on and advocate for women in the workplace in Japan. Nuala is a regular mentor through formal internship programs and internal mentor series at AIG. She has contributed and led several volunteer programs in the companies she has represented as well as personally.

Nuala graduated from the University of Sheffield in England with a degree in Business Studies and Japanese and is a fluent Japanese speaker.

Mirei Kato

Effective Parenting & Youth Voices

Mirei Kato is currently a senior at the International Christian University, majoring in sociology. She spent 6 years of her childhood in the United States before returning to Japan at the age of 8.


Based on her personal experience of being futoko (being absent from school for a substantial period of time), and her recent diagnosis of panic disorder, she has been passionate about raising awareness on mental health. She has worked with TELL as a volunteer in fundraising events, as well as a summer intern in 2019 and 2020.

She will be sharing her personal experience of being a student during the pandemic, as well as experiences of students from around the globe, followed by a discussion on how to navigate these hard times as a student. 

Alejandra Reyes

Effective Parenting & Youth Voices

Alejandra Reyes is a licensed clinical psychologist with over 15 years of experience working internationally in schools and clinical settings with children, adolescents, and adults suffering from adjustment issues, behavioral challenges, trauma, grief, depression, anxiety, and neurodevelopmental disorders such as ADHD. 


Ms. Reyes offers therapy and testing services in both English and Spanish. She can also speak Portuguese and Japanese.

Besides working for TELL, she gives presentations, workshops, and counseling services for the British School in Tokyo, the Mexican Embassy in Tokyo, Loyola Center of Sophia University, the Educational Network for Spanish speakers in Japan and co-facilitates the Parent-Child Learning Support Group for families with school-aged children with learning differences.

Elizabeth Handover

Education During COVID

A Global Lumina Learning Partner since 2010, Elizabeth accredits the Japan, Korea & Hong Kong network of client and business practitioners, and partners with clients to build inclusive and productive organisational cultures.


Her career in theatre performance, directing, teaching and learning & development underpins her expertise in delivering innovative leadership and team development solutions. Elizabeth designs and facilitates interactive women’s leadership courses to accelerate the career growth so urgently needed by companies in Japan. She employs a range of theatre techniques to empower women with greater confidence in key capabilities, stronger interpersonal skills and
authentic leadership presence.

She is Lumina Learning Head of Asia Faculty, Vice-Chair of the ACCJ Women in Business Committee, Executive Advisor to the Hilton JKM Women’s Leadership Conference and the MetLife
Tomodachi Women’s Leadership Programme. She was awarded Entrepreneur of the Year in the 2014
British Business Awards.

Colette Rogers

Education During COVID

Hailing from Ireland and traveling for the past 30 years, Colette finds herself back in Tokyo for the second time and assuming the role of Head of Seisen International School since 2015. Her background as an experienced international school counselor, mother of two teen third culture kids ( TCKs), and her experiences as a "trailing spouse" reinforce her advocacy of holistic education.


Colette has a firm focus on social and emotional wellbeing, student voice, a global mindset, and a belief in cultivating the existence of a strong network of qualified professionals working in collaboration with international families. As a Head of School, top of Colette's priorities is adhering to the international standards of Student Safeguarding and ensuring her faculty and staff are trained in child protection and advocacy. A proud and respected member of the Japan Council of International Schools ( JCIS), Colette represents JCIS on the TELL Board.

Craig Coutts

Education During COVID

Originally from New Zealand, Craig has been living and working internationally for over 25 years. He spent time in the UK, Indonesia, and Singapore teaching and leading in schools, before coming to Japan in 2013 as the Head of School at Yokohama International School.


Working in the international school environment, Craig has developed a strong passion for Service and Leadership development and has presented at international conferences around the world on both topics. 

Matthew Parr

Education During COVID

Originally from the UK, Matthew has been involved in international education for over 20 years. Starting life as a music teacher in the UK, he currently serves as the Head of School at Nagoya International School in Japan, a diverse and inclusive CIS/WASC-accredited IB world school which has been meeting the needs of the international (and internationally-minded) community of Nagoya for over 50 years. Matthew has also been honored to serve as the President of the Japan Council of International Schools since May, 2014.


Matthew holds a BMus. degree from the University of Wales, Cardiff and an MSc. in Educational Leadership from the University of Leicester (UK). He is a recipient of the Advanced Certificate of International School Leadership from the Principals’ Training Centre (PTC) and holds the UK’s National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH).

Tiziana Alamprese

Closing Remarks

Tiziana came to Japan the first time as a fellow student of the Japanese Ministry of Education at Kyushu University, where she obtained her Master in Economics. The years spent in Japan as a student were fundamental to growing her respect for the Japanese culture.


Since 2005, when she returned to Japan from Italy as a top executive in the automotive business, she has been combining her knowledge and love for the local culture with her creative approach. Her focus, in her current role as Marketing Director at FCA Japan is to connect the value of each Brand she manages to a responsible cause marketing strategy. Since 2011, she has promoted consistent support to 13 NPOs active in Japan in the field of women empowerment, LGBT rights, environment & animal protection, support to hospitalized children and to persons with diverse abilities.


Tiziana is a passionate lecturer and is often invited as a speaker by the Academia, at business associations networking events, other companies’ seminars and as an energetic testimonial to encourage women empowerment in Japan.

Alexander Dmitrenko


Alexander is the Head of Asia Sanctions at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer focusing on compliance and regulatory issues (anti-bribery/corruption, sanctions, investigations, trade wars, cybersecurity, and product liability). He is an attorney qualified in NY, England & Wales, and Russia and registered as Gaikokuho-Jimu-Bengoshi with the Daini Tokyo Bar Association.

Alexander is also a co-Chair of Lawyers for LGBT & Allies Network (LLAN), a Japanese NPO promoting LGBT rights. He also supports (through fundraising and otherwise) an orphanage near Yangon, Myanmar. In his spare time, he serves as a “friendship ambassador” of Hachijojima.

Maurice Rabb


Maurice L. Rabb has been a TELL Japan Executive Board Member for several years. He is a California licensed attorney, professional development and strategy consultant, diversity & inclusion strategist, career coach, and legal tech evangelist.


He has been living and working in Asia for more than 15 years. During his time in Asia, Maurice has worked for U.S. and Japanese law firms as an international business lawyer and human resources professional and for a global education Non-Profit Organization. Currently, Maurice is the Senior Manager for Recruitment in Asia for Baker McKenzie, a leading global law firm.

Selena Hoy


Selena joined the TELL team as Outreach Coordinator in 2017 after admiring the organization for years and participating in various events

She completed her MSW at Portland State University in Oregon, USA, where she concentrated on macro social work and community organizing, with a focus on immigrant and refugee communities. She completed field practicums at refugee organizations in both Tokyo and Portland.

Before her stint back in Portland, she lived in Tokyo for more than a decade, and worked and volunteered with many wonderful Japan-based non-profit organizations, especially with children and animals. In 2013 she completed the NGO Management Certificate at Temple University Japan.

As a bicultural Japanese-American, she empathizes with the challenges and opportunities that come with living between countries and cultures, and she loves making connections in the community. As Outreach Coordinator, you’ll find her organizing events, visiting schools, attending community meetings, and putting together workshops and lectures. 

Jin Song Montesano


Jin Song Montesano is Executive Officer and Senior Managing Director of LIXIL Corporation. As Chief People Officer, Jin oversees a broad range of functions including Human Resources and General Affairs, Communications, Corporate Responsibility, Investor Relations, and External Affairs.

Prior to joining LIXIL, Montesano held various senior positions around the world, including Vice President, Global Public Affairs at GSK Vaccines; Vice President, Corporate & Government Affairs, Asia Pacific in Kraft Foods; Vice President, Communications, Asia Region in GE Money and Corporate; Government Affairs Director, Asia Pacific in GlaxoSmithKline plc. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from Columbia College of Columbia University and a Master of Public Affairs from Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs.