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This Entrepreneur Left a Dream Job to Lead a Non-Profit Child Protection Centre

Meet Ginny Becker, Social Change — Regional Impact Award winner at the 2023 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards

By Khera Alexander

Finding that point in your life and career when you realize it’s time to align more closely with what truly inspires you can be a life-changing moment.

For Ginny Becker, who is currently leading Kelowna’s Child & Youth Advocacy Centre (CYAC) as its Executive Director, this realization came after years of professional success in environments that, while rewarding, didn’t quite light the fire within her. Ginny was at a turning point, ready to seek out a path that not only met her professional aspirations but also allowed her to make a significant, positive impact on her community.

“I was at work one day and I had this moment [where I thought], ‘I need to do something very different [from] what I’m doing,’” Ginny says.

After spending many years in the for-profit sector doing work she was growing tired of, she wanted to do work that mattered to her. Ginny was ready to contribute to her community in ways that she felt made a real impact and that aligned with what she felt was valuable and important, so she decided to make a career change.

“I gave notice [and] decided I was only going to look for roles that came out of [the] not-for-profit [sector],” she says.

Initially taking on a couple of different positions, Ginny knew that she was in the right industry, she just wasn’t in the right roles.

Almost serendipitously, she received a call from an old colleague who was building a child advocacy centre in Kelowna, British Columbia, but needed someone to lead the project and work alongside them.

At that time, Ginny had an enviable role at a different non-profit organization.

“I was in a job that everyone should want: great salary, great pension, all the benefits you could ask for,” she says. “It kind of had that connection to the give-back, but I couldn’t feel it.”

Torn between staying in a role that was great on paper and diving deep into the unknown to build this new centre, Ginny’s decision was finalized after much reflection and an illuminating conversation with her then-nine-year-old child on a drive.

“[I told them], ‘I have this great job, [and] it pays me really well. It’s all the things you’re supposed to want, but I’ve been offered this job to go and make a really big difference for kids in our community,’” she says.

“My nine-year-old looked [at] me and said, ‘Well, that doesn’t sound like a hard decision at all.’”

Taking a big leap of faith and leaving her “dream job,” Ginny set out to help build the CYAC in Kelowna.

Today, the CYAC Ginny runs is a 14,000-square-foot centre that prioritizes some of Kelowna’s most vulnerable children, supporting them in their healing, socialization, and development as survivors of different types of abuse and neglect.

With a community-informed, integrated approach to protecting and supporting these children, Ginny and her team work with various frontline agencies to better the outcomes of children who come into contact with the centre. 

The impact the CYAC has made on children and local communities is felt, but Ginny says two large challenges exacerbate the obstacles in the non-profit space.

Initially, there’s a lack of awareness; non-profits are often overlooked, thus leading to a general disconnection from these organizations. Without connection, people are not aware of what so many non-profits do, who they help, and how integral they are to the survival of local communities. 

“As not-for-profits, we’re not always looked at as a legitimate part of the infrastructure of the economy,” Ginny says. “We need to help our country and our collective communities understand what not-for-profits are holding up, [because] if you don’t have cause to understand it, you may never connect to it.”

The second challenge Ginny points to is a lack of funding, noting that there’s an expectation — but also bewilderment — that those in the non-profit space do so much more with less. The consistent need to build and look for ongoing sources of funding makes things difficult, but Ginny also says it allows her team to be gritty, adaptable, and utilize their entrepreneurial mindset to do good work.

“It’s a fine balance [with getting funding] because community fundraising is also how we stay agile,” Ginny says. “There’s a balance between the need for government to pick up some of the pieces of this work, but also to keep communities connected to it meaningfully.”

Community connection and being an important resource for children and families in Kelowna is how Ginny found herself on the receiving end of an RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards nomination, and she says that she had several reasons for completing her application in the Social Change — Regional Impact category.

“We have a great partnership and relationship with RBC, so I wanted to look at [the application],” Ginny says. “The title [of the category] was interesting, because if I’m proud of one thing, I’m the most proud of social change and driving system change. [The] application was [also] a really beautiful opportunity to reflect.”

What was initially a moment of self-reflection and celebration of the centre’s hard work led to Ginny standing in front of a room full of people at the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards, taking home the Social Change — Regional Impact award.

“There’s one person’s name on the award, but it represented an entire collection of child and youth advocacy centres and this really big work, because I’m certainly not alone in this space,” Ginny says. “There’s, [at least] 50 operational CYAC’s in the country now — every single one of them is reflected in this award.”

Instead of getting bogged down or discouraged about some of the most devastating events taking place in our world, Ginny knows that everyone can make a difference.

“Sit for a minute and think about the things that keep you up at night. What are the things that scare you about our world right now?” she says.

“Once you land on the things that are bothering you, dig in and do the research [on] who is doing good work in the space you are alarmed by. If all of us gave five minutes or $5, whatever is your reality, the whole reality and fabric of our country and community could change.”

Ginny isn’t romanticizing system change, either; she knows for a fact that it’s possible because she and the team she leads at the CYAC are driving change daily. It may take time, but she sees possibilities for change everywhere.

“It might take a year, it might take 10 years, it might take a person, or might take 10,000 people, but it can be done — changes are possible. It takes champions to drive that forward,” Ginny says. 

“Generally speaking, old systems exist because of tradition and instinct. If it were not for organizations from the not-for-profit sector where we have the agility to say, ‘But why?’ ‘Can we do this differently?’ If no one’s asking [those questions], nothing changes.”