Cornwall ON – After 18 years serving the Cornwall community, the Cornwall and District Immigrant Services Agency (CDISA) will be closing its doors on March 31st, 2011.
This has been an extremely difficult decision for the Board of CDISA to reach. Since its origins,
CDISA has been a grassroots organization building its programs based on the needs of the immigrant community in Cornwall rather than on the funding available. That commitment to the Cornwall community has ensured that CDISA has found creative ways to continue to support immigrants as they integrate into Cornwall.
Over the last few years the federal government’s investment in settlement services has shifted. In particular, there has been a redirection of funds for settlement services to larger, more institutional organizations, like libraries and school boards.
The most recent funding changes announced in December 2010 will find potentially 35 fewer settlement agencies in Ontario. As we all know change is part of life. The Board considered all of its options at this time and has decided to close its doors. In the last three months of CDISA operations (Jan. – March 31st 2011), two programs will continue to be operating: From Learning to Earning Women (F.L.E.W.) and Cool Art by Cool Kids. CDISA is working with community partners to ensure clients are referred to Cornwall Immigrant Resource Centre (CIRC) for settlement services and to Job Zone d’ Emploi for employment services.
CDISA has been a community within a community and there are a number of key people and organizations that need to be acknowledged as CDISA begins to wind down. The founding mothers of CDISA Chris Francis and Sarala Gill (who is still on the board)
have been a grounding force for the organization and kept the group continuously focused on the real needs of immigrants in our community.
It has been a great honour to work with the clients of CDISA. As you can well imagine, it is an amazing experience to work with people who have chosen to make Canada and Cornwall their new country and to help them learn about how to bring their gifts, talents and resources to our community.
The staff and volunteers of CDISA demonstrated what sheer determination, open hearts, great skills and enormous knowledge can create. We want to specifically acknowledge all of the volunteers, including previous board members and the dedicated staff group,
with special recognition to the last staff group: Sarah Maynard, Carmen Romo and Girlie Mombay and Penny Bateman. We especially wish to thank Ms. Sophia Reyes-Leger, Executive Director for her dedicated and long-standing commitment to the Agency.
CDISA will leave a legacy. In its fourteen years in existence, CDISA provided:
-settlement services to over 12,000 immigrants;
-developed and delivered the well respected Cross Cultural Diversity Training program;
-assisted over 1000 clients with employment assistance;
-ran children camps and art programs;
-delivered anti-racism and multicultural presentations in elementary and secondary
-provided Interpretation services;
-offered Literacy and Women related projects.
CDISA’s community events have included the Trailblazers awards and Multicultural picnics and Christmas parties. The efforts of CDISA earned Cornwall the title of “ideal city for newcomers”. You will notice in the list of accomplishments that we often reference our work in relation to the community agencies we have worked with as service partners; including the library, the schools, the employers and social and health service organizations that wanted to learn how to make their agency and workplace a better place for immigrants. We thank you for working with us to make Cornwall a stronger, more cohesive community.
We are working closely with the relatively new CIRC and other organizations to carry this responsibility forward. We believe that CDISA has left a high standard that they will no doubt reach. The closure of CDISA leaves the Cornwall community with a void but also with a great responsibility: the work of advocacy for and on behalf of immigrants in Cornwall will rest with the entire community of Cornwall. Each one of us, as community members, will need to be vigilant in recognizing and making the best use of the gifts that immigrants bring to Cornwall. We need to continue to strive to make the Cornwall community a welcome home for newcomers and to continue to grow and challenge ourselves to embrace the diversity of our community.
CDISA has been blessed to have the privilege to work and serve this community since 1992. As part of our annual Multicultural Trailblazers award gala on March 3rd, we will be celebrating the history and legacy of CDISA, in addition to recognizing immigrants
who have made outstanding contributions to Cornwall in ten specific community areas.
The Board of Directors of CDISA
Linda Geisel, Supervisor of Resident Services, Glen Stor Dun Lodge
Bernadette Clement, Lawyer with the S.D.G. Legal Clinic and City Councillor
Patrick Swift, B.A, B.S.W., Consultant
Shawna Spowart Sergeant, Cornwall Community Police Service
Sarala Gill, Retired Nursing Teacher, St. Lawrence College
Hana Abi Tarabay, First Generation Immigrant, Stay at Home Mom
Gorden Lanctot, Supervisor, The Children’s Aid Society of the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas & Glengarry
Safdar Chaudhry, Corporate Financial Analyst (Corporation of the City of Cornwall)
Sebastian Drugea, Constable, Royal Canadian Mounted Police