Life After Chase: Ellie Matsumoto
Helping kids through Smiling Hospital Japan,
with other Chase alumni
Here's how a particular international philanthropic network got populated with Chase Alumni:
►Hans van den Houten (co-founder of CAA and, like Royaards, Dutch) became an advisor as Smiling Hospital expanded into 10 countries;
►van den Houten contacted the late Seiichi Takahashi, instrumental to Chase's post-war success in Japan and, in 2012, founding chair of Smiling Hospital Japan Foundation (SHJ), and
►Takahashi-san in turn recruited an ex-Chase employee, Ellie Matsumoto, to take the reins of the organization (shown below with Royaards).
Smiling Hospital works to cheer up children in hospitals, believing that "happiness helps healing". They bring in entertainers (no scary clowns, only happy ones) and artists, and paint hallways of children's hospital units with bright colors. (The first such project in Japan, at Kanagawa Children's Hospital in Japan, is shown further below.)
"In Hungary we had Fiat as a major corporate sponsor," Mr. Royaards recalled. "The Financial Director of Fiat was very impressed with the work we did and do for the children in hospitals in Hungary. Then he was assigned as the CFO of Fiat in Japan. Soon after he had moved to Tokyo, he sent me a letter stating that if we ever wanted to set up Smiling Hospital Foundation in Japan, Fiat would support us with ideas and funds. I informed Hans and both of us spent six months to a year to find the right person to help us with the founding of this charity in Japan. That led us to Seiichi. and from Seiichi to Ellie. And indeed Ellie has done a most wonderful job in implementing Smiling Hospital Japan Foundation from a legal, artistic and financial points of view. Thanks to her we have so much expanded our activities in Japan."
Ms. Matsumoto joined the Chase Tokyo branch in 1984 after graduating from university and spent only three years at Chase -- two in the exchange fund unit and one in the remittance unit. Still she left an impression on Takahashi-san 25 years later.
When she left Chase, Ms. Matsumoto taught English in special ed programs based at hospitals, so she knew the environment and how it could be bettered with laughter, music and color.
Since SHJ's founding in 2012, she says, their programs have grown in quality and quantity. The first year they only worked at one hospital with 10 artists. Today SHJ is active in 11 regions, each with its own coordinator of day-to-day activities, with 43 hospitals and faciities and 130 professional artists. About 8,000 children and parents benefit from the program yearly, but in a year some 200,000 children are hospitalized in Japan.
Although SHJ was founded a year after the great earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the program still helps some of the children affected by the natural calamity.
"There’s a Red Cross hospital in Ishinomaki where the rest of the hospitals in the region were destroyed by the disaster, and we have visited the children there since 2013," Ms Matsumoto said. "The nurses were and are eager to have our activities for children injured both physically and mentally, to lift their spirits."
Contributions go to pay the artists, cover the cost of medical exams, antibody tests and vaccinations for artists and staff, transportation and art materials, as well as administrative expenses. Ms. Matsumoto said that former Chase colleagues have been generous to the program –perhaps with some gentle arm-twisting by Takahashi-san. Ms. Matsumoto hopes that all who admired him will honor his memory by continuing to support Smiling Hospital.
"Children are our teachers. This is what we think whenever we are with them," Ms. Matsumoto has written. "Children, especially those fighting against illness for a long time, teach us and realize us the most precious thing and sometimes about life itself. Things we can do for them may be limited, but we keep sharing happy times with children considering how they are feeling and what they want to do because happiness helps healing."
Ms. Matsumoto writes a blog almost every day (alas, only in Japanese) and is absorbed by her three grandchildren, ages 2, 4 and 6.
"My biggest interest and hope is that the world will become peaceful, without quarrels and war, especially for children," she said.