Meheret Bisrat was recognized by the Surrey Now-Leader‘s Community Leader Awards in the Above & Beyond category (Honourable Mention)
Meheret Bisrat was just seven years old when she and her family came to Canada as Government-assisted refugees from Ethiopia. They fled to escape communism and arrived in Vancouver with no English and many challenges, including racial stereotyping. “I was always feisty, a fighter and grounded in my identity,” she says. “I knew the beauty of my country and culture, and that helped me withstand any type of jokes even though they still hurt.”
This strong and determined approach continues to guide her today as Senior Manager, Community Development at DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society, where she oversees programs and services that support diverse community members, including immigrants, refugees, LGBTQ+ individuals, seniors and more, to build a life in Canada.
She knows what it’s like to navigate a new life and, after falling in love with sociology classes in post-secondary, her career path helping others do the same was set.
Finding a job out of university wasn’t without its challenges, however. “It was a recession and I was really humbled. I went to various information interviews and knew I needed to volunteer and expand my network.”
After moving to Surrey from Vancouver, she stumbled upon the sign for DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society, seeing diverse people coming in and out. “I wondered what went on in that building,” she remembers.
After walking through DIVERSEcity’s doors, she became a volunteer for one of its community programs. Then she became a client, making use of job search programs. She then applied for a position with the organization in 2010, coordinating the very program she first volunteered for. She didn’t get it, so she worked on improving her skills, including getting her drivers’ licence. A few months later, she saw the job posting was reposted. She applied and this time she got it!
From then, she did some work as a settlement worker and then moved onto progressively higher roles from a volunteer coordinator in 2014 to a refugee program coordinator in 2016 to the assistant manager of refugee and specialized programs in 2017 to its manager in 2018. In February 2023, she took her place among the organization’s leadership team overseeing her old portfolio, as well as settlement services, seniors services, and volunteer and citizenship programming.
Growing services to better meet the needs of the community
From her lived experience as a refugee and her progressive professional experience from volunteer to client to front-line work to management and senior management, Meheret has grown into a compassionate and thoughtful community leader. She not only puts the needs of the people she leads first, guiding them with compassion and understanding, but she continually looks for ways to grow and innovate her portfolio to better meet the needs of the community.
She has been instrumental in spearheading differentiating services for the organization. She has elevated the RISE case management program into a more integrated and holistic service model. Her visionary leadership is evident in the program’s evolution, where a focus on tailored mental health support, culturally informed services and specialized assistance for LGBTQ+ newcomers reflects her keen understanding of the “intricate, intersectional barriers individuals encounter in their settlement journey.”
Recognizing her leadership at DIVERSEcity and in Surrey
Through her years of work with DIVERSEcity, Meheret has gone above and beyond in both her leadership style and program innovation, which is why she was recognized by the Surrey Now-Leader‘s Community Leader Awards in the Above and Beyond category (Honourable Mention).
See the Surrey Now-Leader’s article here.