Queenie Choo has built a career out of helping people settle in a new country
And she knows how it feels. Born in Hong Kong, she moved to Edmonton in 1982 to take a nursing job, and eventually worked her way up to management positions in the Alberta Health Service. In 2012, she was recruited to take charge of S.U.C.C.E.S.S.—one of the largest social services providers in B.C. Now she helps newcomers to Canada negotiate the many challenges of adjusting to an unfamiliar environment while advocating on their behalf to politicians in Victoria and Ottawa.
S.U.C.C.E.S.S., which started 40 years ago as a grassroots organization in Vancouver’s Chinatown, today offers a wide array of programs in settlement, housing, employment, language and business skills to 200,000 clients a year. With more than 20 offices across the Lower Mainland and one in Fort St. John, S.U.C.C.E.S.S. has gone far beyond its original vision of serving the Chinese community. “This is what I would like to strengthen—our cultural diversity,” says Choo. “We have strong Chinese roots but an open heart.”
Syrian refugees are experiencing that sense of compassion as they arrive at Vancouver International Airport, where S.U.C.C.E.S.S. staff welcome them and help them with basic needs. The program, called Community Airport Newcomers Network, is funded by Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada and has been operated by S.U.C.C.E.S.S. for 23 years. At offices in Seoul and Taipei, the organization also offers advice on finding housing and employment for those approved for immigration to Canada; this year two more offices offering pre-arrival services will be opened in Shanghai and Beijing.