Thao Duong-IWSO Manager of Settlement and Integration

Thao and her family came to Canada in the early 1980’s.  Here is her settlement story.

After the Fall of Saigon in 1975, many Vietnamese fled Vietnam through different ways, my family included.  Many people were facing persecution due to their political beliefs, and families were also fleeing for economical reasons, as many people were facing starvation and hardship back then.

My father was an influential member of our community in Vietnam and a successful businessman, and my mother was a stay-at-home mom.  When we came to Canada, both my parents were in their 50’s. My father found work as a parking attendant, and my mother worked in a sewing factory.  Both worked tirelessly to support their nine children and did whatever it took to make sure that all of us would have an education so that we can build a better future for ourselves.  

My brother, who left Vietnam before 1975 as an international student, signed an undertaking for 10 years when he sponsored our family; there were 11 of us.  We had to be self-sufficient as we were not able to receive any financial assistance.  Thanks to my parents’ hard work and persistence, most of us completed university and became contributing members of society.

I’m now raising my two children with the same mentality as my parents; nothing is impossible!  Hard work and a little kindness go a long way.  

I began working with IWSO when I first graduated with a Social Work Degree in the 1990’s as a Crisis Counselor, and I left Canada to work abroad for many years.  Now that I’ve returned to Canada, the road has led me back to IWSO.  I now work with the Settlement Integration & Services team as their humble manager. 

A few years ago, I attended IWSO’s Annual General Meeting, where some clients of IWSO shared their stories and testimonials, which deeply touched me on how our organization had stuck by them through difficult periods in their lives.  They stressed how they had become the women they were now, because of the work and staff at IWSO.  When I heard this, I realized that I was where I wanted to be… at IWSO.  I have now come full circle. I am back to where I first started my career at this non profit organization.

IWSO has been one of the most important organizations serving Immigrant Women in the National Capital Region.  My hope for the future would be for us to continue with our important services and be able to serve more clients.  I would also like for IWSO to have more working space which would enable us to run more programs and activities for all immigrant and racialized women in need, and continue to provide a safe space to Newcomer Immigrant Women who arrive in Ottawa.

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Immigrant Women Services Ottawa
219 Argyle Avenue, Suite 400
Ottawa, Ontario
K2P 2H4
Tel: 613-729-3145
Fax: 613-729-9308