Congratulations to Jorge Fernandez, our new executive director. We sat down with Jorge this week to learn a little more about his story.
A month after Jorge Fernandez graduated from university in Quito, Ecuador, he packed his bags and left a happy home to come to Winnipeg. It was 1985 and he did it for love.
His girlfriend Rosario, now his wife, had recently moved here to study.
He faced challenges. He couldn’t speak English. In 1987, while working for a cleaning company, he came to Immigrant Centre Manitoba (then called the International Centre) to ask for guidance. While he was in the waiting room, he looked around and thought to himself, “I would like to work in this place.”
Twenty-seven years later, he has been named the new executive director at Immigrant Centre Manitoba, taking over for Linda Lalande.
While making a difference working through different levels at Immigrant Centre Manitoba, he has helped countless immigrants and newcomers put roots down in Winnipeg. He has some powerful stories about people he has helped and the difference a little kindness can make in a person’s first few days in a new country. He shared one with me earlier.
One day, a young man from England turned up in Jorge’s office, almost in tears. He was on a working visa and had been told that working visas do not give you the qualifications to apply to be a permanent resident. Wanting to stay, but not knowing where to turn, the man was in trouble.
Jorge immediately came up with a plan. He helped the man apply to become a permanent resident and find work. Since then, he has become a Canadian citizen, started his own business, and gotten married.
“I helped him find employment and he is successful and happy,” says Jorge.
When he makes the move to executive director, he will be carrying on where Linda Lalande left off: creating and enhancing programs for immigrants and newcomers.
“Even though I will miss working directly with the clients, I know I will still be helping them, just in a different way.”
Jorge has helped a lot of newcomers during his time at Immigrant Centre Manitoba. He has been invited to weddings and named godfather to clients’ children.
Immigrant Centre Manitoba is a very unique place. Here it is common for clients to become volunteers and then employees. That full-circle is something of which we’re very proud.
“We really believe in growth,” says Linda Lalande, outgoing executive director. “Jorge was a perfect choice. He cares so much about our clients, we have nowhere to go but up with him.”
Please join us in wishing Jorge all the best in his new role as executive director, starting on December 22, 2014.