We are so grateful to everyone who supported PIRS’ annual fundraising campaign. Like the immigrant and refugee women PIRS serves, we know that many of you are struggling too. And that makes the outpouring of support even more special!
This year we challenged our community of donors to help us raise $45,000. All told, we raised 70% of our goal – $31,746 including $15,670 in cash and $16,076 worth of in-kind donations for our families, including hot meals, fruit and veggies, clothing, diapers, children’s books, and more!
The money raised will be used to support the journeys of newcomer women in Canada, from assistance with basic needs (distributing the in kind donations to families) to language training and mentorship. Participants gain so much more than just the language and skills from PIRS programs, they gain a sense of security and belonging. Belonging and security that will serve them well as they navigate in a new culture, especially during this long crisis. Last year, PIRS provided more than 20,447 hours of service to 875 women and their children.
But I want to focus on some very special people whose passion shines through it all. The people who make sure that those in-kind donations make it into the hands of those who need it most.
Like so many PIRS staff, Valerie Lai is an immigrant to Canada. Valerie’s immigration journey started in the early 90’s. Due to rising tensions between her native Hong Kong and China, Valerie’s parents decided to immigrate to Canada. The move was rushed. Valerie only knew that Canada was a big country with cold winters. Luckily, she landed in Vancouver just in time for Spring Break and started high school right away. Valerie integrated in a church youth group and got settled.
Valerie wanted to be a teacher, but her English wasn’t good enough for the field of education, so she ended up studying business. After graduating from University, Valerie married and started a family. Following the birth of her second child, she became a stay at home mom and discovered a passion for teaching young children.
Not long after, Valerie started working part-time as an early childhood educator. In fact, one of her first jobs was facilitating the Story Time program at PIRS. Her passion grew into working with families with young children, particularly immigrant families.
Valerie loves sharing her experiences with newcomer parents, and believes that “if I can do it, so can they!” Being an immigrant, she understands their struggles – but she also feels blessed because she was able to attend University, and her children do well in school. In a way, working with immigrant families is her way of paying it forward. In turn, she hopes they will be able to follow her example, and share the blessings – “so the world may be a better place.”
As Program Coordinator, Valerie Lai supports and trains PIRS’ outreach workers, and informs PIRS’ data collection and storytelling. Some of her recent accomplishments include developing programs and partnerships to meet emerging issues – Food Hubs and the Welcome To Kindergarten partnership.