Director of Operations, Burnaby Family Life
Katalin began volunteering in the community services sector almost 20 years ago soon after she arrived as a landed immigrant from Hungary in 1991. Her first volunteer experience was with the FAST Society (Families as Support Teams). Katalin began her association with Burnaby Family Life as a volunteer childcare worker in 1992 and was hired two years later.
Katalin cares profoundly for the organization’s wellness. As a former newcomer herself, Katalin has risen through the ranks, taking advantage of every opportunity to develop personally and professionally while continually improving the organization’s culture and services. She says, “My main mandate is to help and support the settlement of immigrants into Canadian society.”
Katalin is a powerful change agent, instinctively aware of the needs of newcomers, creative and responsive in meeting emerging needs and trends, and a constant advocate within BFL and in the community. She has played a pivotal role in transforming Burnaby Family Life from a mainstream service agency to one much more responsive to diversity of Burnaby and its families.
“A big problem of being an immigrant is that you lose the older generations in your family and without their support you lose generational wisdom. Often our children don’t have grandparents who are involved in their lives. We need to build new families here and take care of each other.”
Due mainly to Katalin’s influence as a leader, BFL now boasts an exceptionally qualified, compassionate work force who collectively speak 38 different languages. During the past year, BFL lived up to its mission of serving the whole community – in all its diversity, serving clients representing 93 different cultural backgrounds.
Katalin initiated an immigrant women’s support group at BFL more than fifteen years ago. She explains her rationale; “Being new can be a very lonely place. We survived and are where we are because people supported us. We need to pay it back. We need to reach out to and get involved in their support and care. Just love them.”
The support group is so successful that it is still being offered to this day. Katalin credits the success to the support and conversations women offer each other. She says, “It’s about sharing our stories. Sharing our difficulties and successes, and encouraging each other; that’s what’s important. It’s not enough to hear statistics. You need to hear it from the person’s mouth.”
“In my immigrant woman’s group there is a woman who I first met at a local school. I invited her to join our group, but she declined. I kept inviting her, and it took me ages but one day she showed up to join our group. She has since turned her life around, and says it all started in the women’s group.”
“We need to encourage newcomers that there is hope and possibility. They need to understand that getting settled here is a journey. If they understand that there is a path and if we can show it to them, they will find it much easier.”