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PICS wrapping their arms around immigrant families in Surrey

Their breadth of programs has grown exponentially since their inception back in 1987

Moving your family to a completely new part of the world can be a shock, no matter where you’re from. Not only does that culture shock apply to the parents who spearhead the move, but their parents and kids who join them as well.

Thankfully for immigrants, a non-profit organization in Surrey has programs dedicated to help that transition for people of all ages.

The Progressive Intercultural Community Services Society (more commonly known as PICS) has existed for more than 30 years now. It originally began as an organization that assisted new agricultural workers in Canada who were being exploited and discriminated against. Now, the breadth of their programs has expanded to help all members of the family.

“We do our best to serve the community and bring smiles to their faces,” Community Services Program Manager Kamaljit Bal said. “We often see families that are very distraught, and we’re bringing hope to them.”

Seniors finding solace in Surrey

When you think of organizations that help immigrants, you imagine help with finding employment. That is how PICS started and they do a lot of work in that area today.

However, one area where they’ve really made their mark in the community has been with helping seniors adjust to life in Canada.

“Even if immigrant families are already well established, often they are too busy with family life, and seniors were left out. Often, if these seniors don’t adjust with their families, they get left out and become lonely, with nobody to talk to.”

That was the motivation for PICS to fundraise in order to build housing for seniors. They opened their first independent living facility in 2000, and a second assisted living facility has opened since then. They’ve begun to fundraise for a third facility as well, which is focused on providing long-term care. PICS recently hosted a unique “Golden Glam-ma” pageant where 15 ladies, all of whom were at least 60 years old, walked down the runway for the crowd’s pleasure.

“It was an amazing, sold out event with about 500 people who came,” Bal said. “We have a great group of senior ladies that get together every week with something different happening. Whether it’s singing or dancing or taking trips around the Lower Mainland, they all have fun and it’s a great way of networking with each other.”

Bal has seen first-hand the long-lasting impact that PICS can have for these seniors. “Not long ago, one of the ladies in our senior group came up to me and gave me a hug. She told me that her husband used to come to us for lots of help with pensions, forms, and for settling in Canada.”

“She said to me: ‘this is an amazing group. I didn’t know what to do after his death, but I really look forward to coming to the group every week.’”

PICS impacts the youngest generation too

Bal’s interaction with that senior isn’t the first time the staff at PICS has seen their long-lasting impact come to fruition. She notes that one of PICS’s summer students from 2005-06 is now on their Board of Directors.

“People are drawn to either come here or work here because they know they are not alone,” she said. “This is a selfless organization. Our team tries to help find help for whoever comes here no matter what, and the clients are aware of that.”

“When we go out in the community, we hear that people know PICS, and that they can always come to us for help.”

One example of PICS continuing to grow their repertoire has been the addition of special needs programs for kids.

“It’s hard for parents and the children who have to go through the education system in a new country, and it’s even harder for parents who have children with special needs,” Bal said. “The grant from SurreyCares has helped these parents who are feeling helpless. We have early childhood education teachers and long-term care workers who help special needs children with their education in Canada.”

These are just a couple of examples showcasing how PICS impacts immigrants of all ages, and SurreyCares was proud to award them a grant during our 2019 Grant Ceremony. If you’re interested in learning more about PICS or want to make a donation, you can visit their website here.



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