Central City Foundation donors helped fund new ISSofBC Welcome Centre

Newcomers to Canada face the challenge of navigating a new country, culture and, often, a new language. The challenge is even greater for the thousands of refugees who come to Canada for a safe new beginning. Navigating the Canadian education system, work culture and day-to-day life can create barriers for newcomers that Immigrant Services Society of BC (ISSofBC) strives to minimize.

ISSofBC is often the first point of contact for all government-assisted refugees coming to Vancouver and often the first safe place they’ve stayed after years of displacement, trauma and uncertainty. Last year, ISSofBC welcomed over 1,600 refugees from Syria alone, equating to nearly 400 families new to Canada. 

CEO, Patricia Woroch
Patricia Woroch is the CEO of ISSofBC and spearheaded the new headquarters project.

Central City Foundation donors listen to the needs of our community partners and respond by funding projects that allow them to build capacity within their community and the people they serve. We have strong bonds with organizations like Kinbrace, Pacific Immigrant Resource Society and ISSofBC who work directly with newcomers to Canada to help them navigate their new environment.

ISSofBC has been serving the refugee and immigrant community for 45 years, providing >settlement education, language courses and employment services for more than 25,000 people a year. With 14 different service locations, ISSofBC is the largest organization of its kind in Western Canada.

New refugees coming to Vancouver formerly stayed at Welcome Centre in Downtown Vancouver while they acclimatized and found their own housing. The building never quite suited their needs and required repairs, so ISSofBC searched for alternatives with the hope to amalgamate the living quarters with services under one roof. The City of Vancouver granted them a lease for 2610 Victoria Dr., but they needed funding to build and Central City Foundation was the first organization to invest in their vision.

By being an early funder in this innovative project, Central City Foundation gave it legitimacy, which helped ISSofBC secure more funding from other sources. Often organizations cannot raise funds until they have some funding already secured and we are proud to be early stage funders of ISSofBC’s beautiful new LEED certified headquarters.

“We looked at who was available to give us funding and who would give us leverage, because if you have support from people who have credibility in the community and a strong presence, it certainly does make a difference,” said Patricia Woroch, CEO of ISSofBC. “We could say to other groups that Central City Foundation is on board with us and that was very important.”

ISSofBC provides a valuable service to immigrants facing the challenges of adapting to Canadian life. For Maritza Rodriguez Rivera, ISSofBC has helped her not only learn English, but also pursue her dream of becoming a registered dietician in Vancouver.

Maritza immigrated from Mexico seven years ago to learn English. She found adapting to Canadian life very challenging and lonely. She nearly gave up and moved back to Mexico, but she met her husband here and now has a daughter who uses ISSofBC’s daycare while Maritza continues her English classes.

“It was so hard for me to even take the Skytrain and after coming to ISS everything has changed,” said Maritza. “I don’t even have the words to describe how ISSofBC has been a part of my life and helped me integrate into the Canadian society.”

Maritza has been learning English at ISSofBC for just over two years and is living a full life in the  Lower Mainland. She still can’t believe that all the resources to learn a language, incorporate into society or get help with finding a job are under one roof.

“I didn’t expect this when I came here, but I thought it was incredible that so much is offered in just one space,” said Maritza. “This new building is beautiful and it’s amazing that they are able to accommodate new refugees, while providing all the other resources for anyone who needs it.”

Maritza is moving closer to her goal and received a scholarship to become a health care assistant, which she considers a positive step in the right direction.

Organizations like ISSofBC provide a community for people who need support while they journey into a new life. Our donors appreciate the challenges new immigrants and refugees face and are proud to work with community partners making a difference like ISSofBC. Join Us and Build Hope Today.


Take a peak inside:

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