Submitted, with thanks, by Sharon Rusu. Sharon served as an OCISO Board member 1980-81 and Chair, 1982 to July 1983. She also worked abroad for 28 years with various UN agencies including UNHCR, OCHA and UNISDR.
Over a three-year period, 1980-1983, I was honoured to serve the OCISO Board and staff whose commitment to diversity and inclusion are the organization’s defining principles.
As the Resettlement Coordinator at Project 4000, I came to OCISO with understanding of the unprecedented challenges on existing social services posed by the arrival of significant numbers of Southeast Asian refugees.
For the first time in Canada, there was private alongside government sponsorship which placed additional and varied requirements on OCISO’s staff and Board.
John Macdonald’s (below) recounting of those times underlines the importance of alliances and networking among government, community, health, education, legal services and many others, not least inter-racial and inter-faith groups.
Which I am certain has developed over the decades.
Enrique Romo’s (below) piece places the times in context when he points out that the 70s and 80s saw a paradigm shift in the development and delivery of social services. What a challenge for OCSO!
The times saw rapid growth in funding, staff, Board members, projects and services and working together was sometimes fraught.
I recall one halcyon Board meeting which featured a heated discussion between two community leaders. In short, it became clear that the meeting was about to be jeopardized, so a motion was put forward, that was promptly seconded and received majority acceptance for the Board to adjourn for half an hour while the two community leaders negotiated. It worked, the two came to an agreement and the meeting went on without further disturbance.
The old adage rings true: “There is no growth without pain.” With courage, vitality and resilience, OCISO staff and Board have faced changing times, resources and clients with more yet to come.
As it celebrates its 40th year, OCISO can proudly point to its proven track record, over four generations, of recognized, professional social services.
And this is just the beginning!