Gyda Chud has been a Board member of Pacific Immigrant Resources Society for nearly 40 years. She began her journey when PIRS was based in the Strathcona area, and the staff there observed that many women who wanted to participate in programs were not able to because of a lack of access to childcare. Gyda, who was working as an educator at Vancouver Community College and Langara College in the early childhood education department at the time, was asked by a colleague about how to integrate education with childcare so that women could attend language and leadership classes while their preschool children were being safely cared for in the same building. “The more I learned about PIRS, the more I was filled with gratitude and passion for the work the organization was doing,” says Gyda who comes from a family who was very involved in volunteerism and various community initiatives with a social justice and equity focus. “You probably know the phrase that volunteers don’t necessarily have the time, they have the passion. I loved being able to integrate my early childhood world with the world of serving immigrant and refugee women and their young children.”
To Gyda, what sets PIRS apart from other organizations is the sense of intimacy and community between the members of the organization including the board, the staff, the clients, and the funders and the volunteers. This included connecting in person at various events prior to the pandemic, and now virtually. “We have so much valued and benefited from people who have a commitment to the mission, vision, and values of PIRS yet bring their own professional and volunteer backgrounds in marketing, fundraising, human resources, and board development, for example.”
Gyda has taken on the task of assembling a “Founder’s Circle” which brings together several women who have been involved with PIRS since its inception, both board members and past executive directors, so that they could become involved in planning anniversary celebrations and share ideas. 2020 was PIRS’ 45th anniversary and though there were plans to celebrate this major milestone in a big way, these plans had to be put on hold temporarily. Currently PIRS staff and the Board and exploring creative ways to press on and mark the occasion virtually.
Gyda says that one highlight of her time on the Board has been attending graduation ceremonies where women are recognized for their incredible achievements and their children sing new songs they have learned. She describes that hearing the stories of women, some of whom have even published books about their experiences of coming to Canada, is also very powerful. One thing Gyda would love to see going forward would be even more involvement of PIRS graduates at the board or committee level as their firsthand experiences would be invaluable in informing the future direction of PIRS. Gyda is “feeling fantastic” about the future of PIRS with the recent additions to the Board and sees the value of having a mix of experienced Board members who have a sense of the organization’s history with “new and fresh voices, faces, and skills.”
PIRS is so grateful to Gyda for her long-standing commitment and dedication to the organization. Current ED, Mariam Bouchoutrouch, says “With Gyda as board Chair when I joined in 2014, I was immediately struck by her passion and warmth. Gyda is a femtor (a term Gyda coined) and connector who embodies PIRS’ values and inspires us all.”
Written by Angela Heino, February 2021