The AGM was an important one that capitalised on work BILS has been doing over the first half of 2016 to attract new talent. At the time of the event, BILS was losing three board members either through mandatory end-of-tenure (all board members are limited to six years’ maximum service), or through having to relinquish board positions because of conflicting time priorities. The emphasis of BILS’ efforts has therefore been on bringing in expertise at both board and operational levels that complement the strategic plan. Regarding the management of costs to enable reductions, Wendy Ha and Vinay Mathur were both elected, with backgrounds in small business financial management and not-for-profit marketing respectively. In addition the members were able to bring further expertise to the board from Luis Carrilos, Mirela Celaj, and Lisa Ceroni. Between them, these new board members boast direct links into the Spanish and Albanian-speaking communities within Toronto, as well as the ability to provide strategic level counsel on matters of community health, youth empowerment, and 21st century diversity. Additionally the BILS team has identified a further new board member candidate with a 15-year career background specifically in non-profit fundraising and development, but wasn’t able to finalise arrangements in time to bring her to the AGM. More news on this appointment will follow in the coming weeks.
At an operational level it was also announced during the AGM that BILS has appointed Glyn Davies to help pave the way for more powerful communications and ultimately fundraising, at least up to the end of May 2017. Davies brings 17+ years’ experience in public relations, writing, and social media to the table and also shares a real-life settlement experience with BILS clients, having immigrated to Canada in 2005. He has initially been tasked with assisting the organisation revamp its website and rebuild its social media presence, and has a one-year remit to improve awareness of BILS to help fundraising and collaboration efforts.
Program and project-wise the AGM lauded another successful year as BILS once again diversified its efforts in the local community to include tackling issues pertaining to women and seniors as well as recent immigrants and war refugees. The Circle of Friends program again boasted successful art classes, a trip to Ward Island, and weekly meetings individually and ‘en masse’ to counter issues of isolation and neglect largely in Toronto's 40-60 year-old community. The ‘Seniors Interacting / Networking Through Celebrations’ used notable Canadian holidays to complement this work by generating community groups, networks, and social interaction throughout all languages. In addition, the Seniors for Seniors Against Elder Abuse project empowered seniors themselves to raise awareness of elder abuse issues. This project generated a series of skits, accompanied by an informative video and poster. BILS’ Abused Women program also had a successful year, with counsellors meeting with at least two-and-a-half clients on average per week, and counselling many more via telephone. During the year, the team received heart-rending feedback consistently from women stating that their sessions with BILS counsellors were notable for their unique balance of support, concern, guidance and advice that led some clients to say that their experience with BILS has, for the first time, helped them to understand who they truly are.
BILS would finally like to thanks the staff at the Davenport-Perth Neighbourhood & Community Health Centre for their kind assistance with venue and audio-visual preparations.