“The Women’s Centre is like a home to me,” A Conversation with Mrs. Li

Nov 27, 2018

Today’s Giving Tuesday! In honour of the occasion, we’re sharing a conversation with one of our members, Mrs. Li. You can also read last year’s interview with Elaine for Giving Tuesday.

Mrs Li

Mrs. Li is one of the many Chinese seniors who frequent the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre and call DEWC their home away from home. Many of the seniors live in Chinatown, which is located in close proximity to the Downtown Eastside, and face isolation, language barriers and housing uncertainty due to gentrification.

Despite the difference in languages, Chinese seniors make up a key contingent of the DEWC community, and can be found helping in the kitchen, cleaning plates after a busy lunch rush, and greeting other women with smiles.

How did you first come to DEWC?

In 2014, I came here from China. I started coming to the Women’s Centre in 2015. Other people in Chinatown told me that I can come to Chinatown to meet others, that I can find support there, and that I won’t be lonely. I was outside the Women’s Centre when one of the workers invited me in, speaking Mandarin. I was happy that she spoke my language, and now I come back to see others I can talk to. I also come to eat lunch.

What does DEWC mean to you?

The Women’s Centre is like a home to me: somewhere to eat and drink, to see others. I’ve never felt lonely here because even though I don’t know English, I feel included.

I love the Centre because people here care about the seniors. Staff take care of the seniors and make sure they have the supplies and toiletries they need when they come to the Centre. At the community kitchen [that the Chinese Seniors Worker runs], it’s a mixture of Cantonese and Mandarin speakers, and we need to speak slowly so we can understand each other. There are many activities to take part in.

DEWC is very important to me. I come here everyday. This is a place where I meet my Chinese friends. I didn’t know any English or Cantonese, but after I started coming to the Centre, I’ve started learning some!

The Chinese Seniors Outreach program provides translation, referrals, advocacy, housing assistance, and support to seniors living in Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside.

Involved in the Centre since its inception, Chinese seniors continue to participate, volunteer, and shape the Centre’s lively social life

From the archives: DEWC brochure from the 80’s

The Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre welcomes hundreds of women every day, providing a space of sanctuary, safety, welcome, and sisterhood. We serve upwards of 500 meals between the drop-in centre and emergency shelter, building skills, relationships, access to resources, and a platform towards empowerment.