Immigrant service agency CEO wins YWCA Women of Distinction award

Patricia Woroch with two members of the ISSofBC staff. | Photo courtesy of ISSofBC

I felt so proud of women that are in service organizations. I not only represented them but I also represented the staff at ISSofBC,” says Patricia Woroch, a recipient of the YWCA Women of Distinction Award, which was held on May 29, 2017.

Woroch, CEO of Immigrant Services Society of B.C. (ISSofBC) won the award for female leadership in the Non-Profit category.

A pathway to leadership

Originally from Edmonton, Alberta, Woroch moved to B.C. 40 years ago, to start her career in the non-profit sector. Over the years, she moved between educational and work-related experience to finally end up at ISSofBC. In 1998, she was hired at the non-profit organization as CEO. Previously working at the Canadian Cancer Society, she brought an array of leadership abilities to ISSofBC.

Starting out in Kamloops at the beginning of her career with Family Services, she has always had a passion for serving others. She credits her mother with this deep sense of community. Woroch’s first experience in volunteerism started back in elementary school, when she became a secretary for the school’s Red Cross Club.

“We all grew up understanding you have a responsibility to give back to the community you live in”, she say, commenting on her mother’s influence.

A social worker to begin with, Woroch later got into management quite by accident. She immediately recognized her managerial strengths. Management offered a “big picture” perspective. She then expanded her knowledge through various degrees and diplomas mixed with the experiences of working with a variety of social service, government and legal agencies.

Now at ISSofBC , she also co-chairs the Pacific Region’s Ethnocultural Advisory Committee. This national and regional Advisory Committee provides the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) with advice regarding programs and services for the reintegration of ethnocultural offenders to the community. This volunteerism surfaced after years of witnessing newcomer challenges within a new system of law and governance. By working alongside different legal and government bodies, she found herself revisiting the role of advocate.

“What can Corrections Canada do better is to better help them because they will be coming back out into the community,” says Woroch.

Current hallmarks

Patricia Woroch with the YWCA award. | Photo courtesy of ISS of BC

One of the most recent hallmarks in her career with ISSofBC is the opening of the new Welcome Center on Victoria Drive in East Vancouver in July 2016. The 58,000-square foot Centre has been recognized internationally as a state-of-the-art facility for immigrants and refugees. It offers newcomers a temporary residence with a broad array of support services under one roof. Residents can access employment and language services as well as a medical clinic and banking services provided by Van-
city Credit Union. These services meet the immediate and essential needs of newcomers to BC

“It was a very, very long process, one that my predecessors had been looking at,” says Woroch.

The first residents welcomed were government-assisted Syrian refugees.

With all the attention that the Centre gathered, one event that seemed especially monumental was the Royal Visit in October 2017. Woroch recalls being in the middle of a conversation with the future King and Queen of England, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife, and then-B.C. Premier Christy Clark.

“It was a surreal moment, as I was talking to them about ISSofBC and what we do”, says Woroch.

Asked what it was like to win the YWCA Women of Distinction Award, Woroch says she feels honoured to have even be nominated along with the other candidates.

“These women are amazing, I can’t believe I’m in this company,” says Woroch of her fellow nominees.

What two things does she feel that women can take away from her experiences? Woroch comments that mentors have played a big role in her life. She currently mentors many women as her way of giving back.

The second piece of advice is: “Keep learning, learn everything you can in life.” Woroch says.

For more information about the YWCA awards and ISSofBC, visit www.issbc.org or www.ywcavan.org.

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