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Surrey charity celebrates 45 years of helping newcomers to Canada

City of Surrey proclaimed October 10, 2023, as the“Day of Inclusion.”
DIVERSEcity historical photo collage. (Submitted photo)

Surrey-based charity DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society is celebrating 45 years of helping newcomers to Canada.

The organization first opened its doors on October 10, 1978, as the Surrey Delta Immigrant Services Society and re-branded in 2007 as DIVERSEcity.

To coincide with its anniversary, the City of Surrey proclaimed October 10, 2023, as the“Day of Inclusion.” This day serves as a reminder of the need for diversity and inclusion in Canada, Neelam Sahota, CEO of DIVERSEcity, said.

“This is a call to action for citizens (of Surrey) to remember to not take things for granted,” Sahota said. “To understand that the work of inclusivity and the work of belonging is everyone’s responsibility.”

Sahota, a long-time resident of Surrey herself, is proud of DIVERSEcity’s work in Surrey, Langley, Delta and White Rock.

The organization was the first registered charity in Surrey that had a mandate dedicated to building a diverse and inclusive community, Sahota said.

They do this by providing various free services for individuals making Canada home.

“Over the last four-and-a-half decades, DIVERSEcity has assisted tens of thousands of newcomers to find employment, learn English, find housing, deal with family challenges and work through mental health issues,” Margaret Jetelina, senior manager, marketing & communications stated in a release.

“We have provided services for families, children, youth, seniors, members of the LGBTQ+ community, those with disabilities, survivors of violence and skilled professionals,” Jetelina stated.

They also have a number of programs to help support individuals looking to start a small business in Canada for the first time. They help them navigate how to access capital, how to write a business plan and connect with other immigrant entrepreneurs.

DIVERSEcity also does work on the organizational level.

“We also do significant capacity-building work for other organizations that are operating in the city,” Sahota said.

This work is part of the Surrey Local Immigration Partnership (LIP), which is led by a 30-member council that Sahota is the co-chair of. The federally funded Surrey LIP works as a collective front to advocate for Surrey.

DIVERSEcity also helps local organizations understand how to be more prepared to welcome people globally and what tools are needed to do so.

“So it is two fronts, addressing the needs of an individual lens but also addressing and preparing the community from a collective organizational society lens.”

“We approach our work with an open heart and open mind and are excited to meet the challenges of tomorrow by taking the knowledge we have gained over the last 45 years and putting that to work,” Sahota said.

On October 18 DIVERSEcity is hosting a free entrepreneur & small business fair at city hall (3450 104 Avenue) from 3- 7 p.m. The fair is held during small business week and promises to “to be a dynamic platform that will bring the knowledge and tools to help grow one’s small business.”

“This event is set to benefit the community and entrepreneurship society by offering a platform for diverse businesses, including immigrant, francophone, and BIPOC entrepreneurs, to showcase their products, access resources, and gain valuable insights through tradeshow, marketplace, panel discussions and the business pitch competition,” Florence Kao, DIVERSEcity’s Program Coordinator, Self-Employment and Entrepreneur Program, and event organizer stated in a news release Thursday (Oct. 12).

Anna Burns

About the Author: Anna Burns

I started with Black Press Media in the fall of 2022 as a multimedia journalist after finishing my practicum at the Surrey Now-Leader.
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