In Canada, the month of October holds special significance as it marks Women’s History Month. This is a time when we come together to celebrate the remarkable achievements and meaningful contributions of women, both from the past and present. All of this is in the pursuit of a more inclusive and prosperous Canada.
The theme for this year’s Women’s History Month is “Through Her Lens: Celebrating Women’s Diversity.” Throughout the course of this month, we want to shine a spotlight on the extraordinary women who are part of Covenant House Vancouver. They tirelessly dedicate themselves to championing fairness and inclusivity, not only within our organization but also in the care we provide to the young people who are on their transformative journeys with us. These women are the embodiment of our commitment to fostering a more equitable and compassionate society.
What department do you work in and what is your job title?
I work in the Program Services department, and I am the Program Services Training and Experience Manager and Ombudsperson.
My responsibilities include overseeing the training and onboarding processes for program staff, as well as supporting employee experiences and engagement. In my capacity as Ombudsperson, I am committed to ensuring that program service operations are in alignment with our mission and values. This includes the careful review of formal grievances brought forward by any client of Covenant House in accordance with the youth complaint’s processes and procedures.
How long have you worked at Covenant House Vancouver (CHV)?
Since December 2000.
How did you find out about CHV and what made you want to work here?
Covenant House International had a full-time volunteer program called, Faith Community, in Vancouver. They advertised an opening at CHV. I found the ad and article in the BC Catholic, a local church newspaper. Volunteering was an opportunity to learn about Covenant House and its work.
Could you share a memorable interaction with a youth or donor?
We ask youth to go to bed at 11pm. I was working as an overnight youth worker and asked everyone to return to their rooms. When I saw that youth were taking their time, I told them that if they didn’t go to bed, I would tell them a bedtime story. They all exclaimed, please do! I created a story about Maximus, the farting dog and they never got tired of hearing that story.
During one particularly busy season, in the Development and Communications department, I volunteered to handle incoming mail from donors. As I read the heartfelt letters, I was deeply touched by the stories that the donors shared. Some expressed regret for their modest donations, while others mentioned how their grandchildren stayed at Covenant House and they were thankful for the work that we do.
If you had to describe CHV in so many words, what would you say?
We need more Covenant Houses in our community, because the future belongs to young people. At Covenant House Vancouver, we envision a community where healthy, socially engaged, young citizens are equipped to pursue their dreams and lead their families and communities. We provide a safe space for young people who are at risk due to their current living situations, mental health state, or have resorted to various kinds of addictions to try to have some stability. We guide them to find opportunities and their dreams again.
What motivates you to show up to work every day?
The same reason I came to Covenant House 23 years ago, to be a presence of love through the work that I do. I believe that what I do is part of the “we” in the mission, that is, we dedicate to live out the covenant among ourselves and all youth we serve with absolute respect and unconditional love, we help all youth experiencing homelessness, and we protect and safeguard all youth in need. I feel my work is deeply connected to my personal mission and values in life, which is to serve whenever I am called upon to serve.
Why is CHV important?
CHV is more than just an organization that is mission driven. We don’t just exist to do the work that we do but we also understand why we do what we do. At Covenant House, we believe that children and youth have a right to love, respect, and genuine concern. Covenant House was founded based on this belief. Covenant means sacred promise. We establish a covenant with every youth. A covenant involves a mutual agreement, a relationship in which each party lays out what they are committed to doing.
What do you love about your job and working at CHV?
I love that I can lead at work through example; by living out the mission every day with integrity, honesty, and transparency, and by being trustworthy and a good team player. Working at Covenant House Vancouver means working with a purpose, its values of love, respect, service, advocacy, and family fits well with my personal values. Covenant House Vancouver is a dynamic organization with a humble beginning, but is successful because of the dedicated and passionate people who work here. Everyone who comes to work here shares the same purpose; to make things better for our young people, to create a world that does not yet exist for them. Covenant House Vancouver creates this world one youth at a time.
Could you tell us about 2–3 accomplishments that you’ve achieved and why you are proud of them?
As a manager of the Crisis Program for many years, I managed the biggest department with the largest budget allocation. I had the most amazing and resilient Crisis Program team. We went through many major operational and program changes, including:
- Converting the second floor of the Pender building into living space to increase the bed capacity from 24 to 54
- Creating floors for male-identified and female-identified youth
- Supporting the implementation of mental health services at CHV
- Developing team leaders who became managers
- Creating the current schedule template of the Crisis Program that changed five-day work weeks to four, allowing staff to have three-day weekends
- In 2019, moving the female-identified Crisis Program youth to the 1302 Seymour location.
Do you have a role model or someone who inspires you?
Many, but two women in particular, Anne-Marie Martel, a lay person of Le Puy-en-Velay, France, and St. Teresa of Calcutta. They lived a life of service in the name of love . I hope to have their courage to do the same.
How can society better support women to work towards equity? What are the roadblocks?
Educate society on implicit bias and gender stereotyping. Encourage women into non-traditional vocations like science, engineering, technology, and the trades. Teach women to speak up and believe in themselves. A roadblock is the current male-dominated society, colonization, and greater poverty amongst women and girls.
What does Women’s History Month mean to you?
It is good to dedicate a month to recognize the contributions of women in our society and to encourage every woman to reflect and celebrate their own personhood which is precious and necessary for the survival of the human species.
Thank you, Pinky, for sharing your thoughts and inspiring words.