Today, CHV’s podcast Under One Roof has an exciting story to share with you. CHV’s new CEO, Deb Lester, discusses her global journey that has led her back home to Canada and ready to start the next chapter in her extraordinary life.
Deb was born in Manitoba, and spent her childhood on Vancouver Island. She was really influenced by the role models in her family who worked in the health and social services. After becoming a registered nurse, she had the incredible opportunity to go overseas and work in Bermuda.
“I was supposed to go for six months. I told my family I’d be back, and I was gone for 30 years.”
Deb began her global journey by volunteering. She worked on the frontlines focusing around maternal, newborn and child programs, both in strengthening facilities and also in the areas of public health. Deb was proud of the work that she accomplished, and just as she was getting ready to leave Bermuda, she was offered work on the international scale.
“I could not reconcile that if you were born in one part of the world or if your skin was a different colour or whatever the case may be, that you would receive different access to services. And for me, that was just completely unacceptable, that it’s a human right, that everyone deserves access to all services. And so all the work that I did was within the foundations of that.”
At the heart of Deb’s accomplishments was the equity of care for all. This passion led her to working with the UN and the World Health Organization. In 2015, the UN released the 17 Sustainable Development Goals were released. Deb was very involved in that work and the advocacy around it.
Around 2017, Deb was feeling the urge to move back to Canada. She arrived just as COVID-19 was escalating. Deb had experience with pandemics and responses to global viruses, so she joined the Red Cross.
What brought Deb to Covenant House Vancouver? “This [CHV’s] mission speaks to my heart. And so, for me, when I’m working towards something that speaks to me that way, that always feels like the right choice for me.” Deb was thrilled by the fact that as she spoke to staff, saw the programs, and the intentionality behind everything, she learned that everyone at CHV was also passionate about the mission.
“I think that providing care and providing access to services and having services really grounded in that unconditional love and utmost respect, for me, has always been at the core of the work that I’ve done. So that also feels so right here, in terms of the future and continuing to bring that to Covenant House and what we do and with our partners. So, I feel like this is the perfect place for me after all the different experiences that I’ve had.”
Deb is excited about many things for the future of CHV and for the futures of the youth that we serve. “And often when I am speaking with others, or partnering with others, I really want to have the youth on my shoulder and that those that we’ve partnered with, so we can bring that voice to others, to our community. I’m excited about working with our community members and what else can we do, what more can we do, to make sure that we really try and continue on this journey, and to bring the services, to provide access, and to give our youth, and to give our community, our very best.”
Listen to the full podcast now!