Supervisor, Burnaby Family Life Family Resource Program
For almost 10 years Gabriele has been the Supervisor of the Burnaby Family Life Family Resource Program. Under her leadership this program has had significant positive impact on Burnaby’s multicultural community. Newcomers feel accepted and welcomed, and quickly develop a true sense of belonging.
“What I enjoy most about my job is that I work with so many immigrants”, says Gabi. “They discover that integrating into Canada is not as scary as they thought it would be; it’s so multicultural and no one looks at you if you’re different.”
Services provided in the Family Resource Program include Family Drop-In, Parent-Child Mother Goose programs, resource libraries, and a clothing exchange; all delivered Monday to Saturday at four different locations. Program participants come from all walks of life; many of them are first time clients who are brand new to Canada. “Last year we served almost 2,000 clients speaking 52 different first languages.”
Gabriele reports that, “Our clients say Burnaby Family Life is a home away from home. It’s so comfortable and they like to come because they feel accepted.” Other clients speak of Burnaby Family Life as “my Canadian family”.
She says, “It’s amazing how much we can do for families. It’s not always easy to be a mum or dad... it’s really great to help each other.” Drawing on her own experience as a newcomer from Europe thirty-two years ago, Gabi provides opportunities for newcomers by encouraging them to participate as volunteers or even to become paid staff, and works hard to provide ongoing training and mentoring.
She says, “My coworkers really inspire me. Lots of them started out as volunteers with our agency. About three years ago we started officially hiring mostly immigrants. It helps us because they speak so many different languages, and it helps them because it’s usually their first work experience in Canada. They are from lots of different countries and cultures, and really embrace everybody. That’s what gets me out of the house everyday.”
Although inspired by her co-workers, she admits, “The best part of my work is seeing the children – there are no borders.”