The volunteer executive director of the Philippine Women Centre of B.C. wants to resurrect the groups Strathcona building, which has been closed since 2008 due to a lack of funding and a dire need for repairs and renovations.
The centre was such an important place because we were the first ones to offer services to Filipino women, said Cecilia Diocson. It was also a space where women pushed out of their employers home could come. We considered that a rescue operation.
Diocson said the centre took the lead working with academics and the federal government on important research studies affecting Filipino women. Some of those studies focused on gender equality, discrimination and the challenges and needs of Filipino nurses doing domestic work in Canada. Other studies conducted with the help of government funding included one regarding Filipino mail-order brides and another that dealt with issues that concern domestic workers in Canada, such as employer tactics to dampen wage claims and extend working hours, structuring conditions, dignity on the job and suggestions for policy change. According to research completed by the centre, in 2005 Filipino women accounted for 95.6 per cent of the live-in caregivers in Canada.
In 2008, the centre received $262,212 from the Womens Community Fund of the Status of Women Canada for its project, Breaking the Silence: Eliminating Violence through Filipino Womens Empowerment. Due to federal government cuts to funding, the majority of Status of Women Canada offices across the country have since closed.
Marc-David Seidel, the chair of organizational behaviour with the University of B.C.s Sauder School of Business, said these types of centres are vital to struggling immigrants.
In a crisis that social support is critical, said Seidel. She advised that once an immigrants life has stabilized, its a good idea for them to expand their social circles beyond dedicated services. These centres are very positive, but after a person get through a crisis its important they learn how to expand their social circles, said Seidel.
Diocson noted government funding enabled the centres staff to purchase offices at 451 Powell St. in 1996. A lack of government funding closed the building in 2008, when the building fell into disrepair and mould started to grow due to a leak in the roof.
At the time of the centres closure, Diocson had been living in Montreal helping her ailing mother, but now thats shes back the volunteer is determined to re-open those offices.
Weve been meeting at my apartment every Saturday to discuss how we can build it back up, said Diocson. And weve been going to the building to clean it up, even though theres mould and no water or lights.
Diocson said selling the building in this economy doesnt make sense financially, so she hopes that by making the centres plight public, volunteers and businesses will step forward to help with renovations.
Real estate prices are down right now, said Diocson. But if we can renovate with donated materials, well be back in business.
For more information about the Philippine Women Centre of B.C. visit pwc.0.tripod.com.
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