Year-end statement from the CEO

Looking back and ahead this holiday season

As we near the holidays, I want to wish our board of directors, staff, clients and partners a healthy and safe season. This holiday season will be far different than previous years, however, our resiliency and gratitude will carry us through as we remain hopeful of new beginnings in 2021, albeit with lessons learned.

Looking back at 2020, we all started the year with great expectations. After all, it was supposed to be the year of 2020 vision, a new decade and so on. Instead, we faced — and are still facing — a global pandemic unlike anything we have ever seen. As we all worked tirelessly to keep our families and communities safe, we learned some important lessons about our community and the work here at DIVERSEcity:

  • People showed incredible resiliency, but not everyone was affected equally. In fact, the pandemic provided a shocking example of the disparities inherent in today’s systems. We saw those who have been traditionally marginalized become even more so, and we rose up through expanded services to reach further when our community needed us the most.
  • Virtual delivery of our services was a necessary shift in today’s world. And it will continue along with in-person services, even after things return to some normalcy. Supporting newcomers and other diverse communities through both online and in-person platforms will allow us to increase our reach and make our services more accessible to all.
  • We must continue to evolve and adapt. With more than 400,000 newcomers expected to arrive to Canada each year over the next three years, we can be a leader in welcoming immigrants and refugees to Surrey and beyond, and in creating a community that is equitable and inclusive for immigrants, Canadian-born and Indigenous people alike.

This year also brought to light painful truths about systemic racism and the harm caused by colonization. The reckoning that occurred against the backdrop of a raging pandemic provided the impetus for difficult conversations to surface, allowing real change to occur. At DIVERSEcity, this meant the start to our own work in becoming an anti-racism organization. We committed ourselves to an authentic journey starting with self-assessment through a justice, equity, diversity and inclusion lens led by experts. This work will not finish with 2020, but, rather, open the door to much more learning and changing so that our mission is delivered equitably for all.

Growing with change

Despite all these challenges and shifts, we saw a great deal of growth at DIVERSEcity this year, with the introduction of new programs, welcoming of new staff and a strengthened commitment to serving newcomers and other diverse populations.

In addition to renewed funding for our longstanding programs, we launched several new programs in 2020 including, among others:

  • The Newcomer Family and Friend Caregiver Support Program, which provides support services to immigrants who are caring for seniors aged 55 and up
  • Power Girls, a new STEM-focused program for racialized girls in partnership with SFU’s Science Alive program and funded by Canadian Women’s Foundation
  • An arts-based program called Youth Expressions! for youth dealing with isolation during COVID-19 funded by United Way
  • The CWB Business Incubator for Women Makers and Creators funded by Canadian Western Bank
  • A variety of emergency food security programs to fund critical food access and food hampers to support vulnerable community members during the pandemic, with funding from Community Food Centres Canada, Shaw Communications, Breakfast Club of Canada, United Way and Surrey Cares Foundation
  • A new concurrent disorders program to support people struggling with ongoing mental health and substance use issues

We were also excited to relaunch the Surrey Local Immigration Partnership (LIP) this year as the conveners of this multi-stakeholder group that has a tall mandate in BC’s fastest-growing city.

We have more plans on the horizon, and have been busy growing our capacity with an even more diverse and talented workforce.

The people behind the work at DIVERSEcity are why we have also been honoured with several awards and recognitions in 2020, including the AMSSA Riasat Ali Khan Award for innovative contributions to diversity and inclusion. Check out all our recent honours here. 

As a racialized female leader, I experienced a personal moment of solidarity by being recognized as a finalist in the 2020 YWCA Women of Distinction Awards.  The platform this type of honour creates is unparalleled as it allows the opportunity to forge solidarity with other women leaders, but also highlights the ongoing need to provide Black, Indigenous and people of colour the opportunities for leadership positions if we are to truly become an inclusive and equitable society.

Looking ahead to 2021

While we are still in these challenging times together, there is much to look forward to in 2021 as an organization, community and province, with the promising news of vaccines. Let’s take some time over the holiday season to replenish, reach out to those in need and connect with our loved ones (even if it must be virtually for now), so that we’re ready to embrace the new year with continued resilience, positivity and inclusion.

With gratitude,

Neelam Sahota, Chief Executive Officer, DIVERSEcity