The Cowichan Intercultural Society (CIS) is a Canadian registered charitable organization that has been serving the Cowichan Valley Region for 35 years. Currently, CIS has 18 active community service programs, 10 board members, 24 staff members, and over 150 volunteers. CIS is the leading community resource for immigrant settlement services, and for education and awareness in developing welcoming and inclusive communities.
To facilitate mutual respect, trust, support, and education in the culturally diverse Cowichan Region
- Collaboration – our commitment to work together and with community partners.
- Innovation – our courage to explore and engage in new ideas and approaches.
- Sensitivity – to respect and recognize those who we serve and those who support us.
- We will be leaders in building inclusive and welcoming communities, where every person feels valued and has a sense of belonging.
- To provide service and support to new Canadians towards their full integration into the communities of the Cowichan Region
- To promote cultural awareness and appreciation in the Cowichan Region
- To facilitate public awareness and education of common issues across cultures
In 1981, a large influx of Vietnamese refugees to the Cowichan Valley residents led residents to organize a new non-profit organization: the Cowichan Valley Intercultural and Immigrant Aid Society (CVIIAS). Their mandate was to:
- Facilitate the settlement and integration needs of immigrants and refugees
- Promote the diverse cultural heritages of valley residents.
Committed volunteers helped newcomers find employment, fill out required documents to reunite with families, and arrange interpreters. Others taught cross-cultural awareness across the Cowichan Region, through schools and community events. The Cowichan Exhibition food tent was a popular community outreach opportunity that built friendship, laughter, and funds for the Society.
In 1982 the Intercultural Women’s Group was born. CVIIAS gained the charitable status it still maintains today. Work with immigrants and long time residents of the community continued, and a welcome addition of federal funds led to hiring a part-time coordinator.
1983 saw rapid growth in membership and activities, including the Multicultural Day Camp. Core funding paid for the administrative costs of the Society and for two part-time coordinators.
The staff, Board, and volunteers have always been dedicated to delivering the programs which the community desires. The government’s shift to project-based funding has led to the occasional challenge with regard to location and staffing. But we are strong in creativity, flexibility, and determination.
We strive to be a home away from home and a place of belonging. Our wonderful clients drive our desire to serve; our excellent community partnerships assist that desire; and our funders support the projects’ delivery.
Our name has changed, but our welcome is the same. Now known as Cowichan Intercultural Society, we continue the vision of our founders to facilitate mutual respect, trust, support, and education in the culturally diverse Cowichan Region.