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Ginny Becker leads the Kelowna Child Youth & Advocacy Centre (CYAC) with Vision, Compassion and Purpose

By Diane Amato

Published February 20, 2024 • 6 Min Read

Ginny Becker was in an enviable position. She was excelling at her job, was paid well and enjoyed long-term security. But she reached a point where she felt she wasn’t making a measurable difference to anybody. So, this award-winning change maker made an important change.  

RBC has a long history of celebrating the progress of women and investing in those who create change. As we celebrate International Women’s Day, we celebrate women like Ginny Becker – a powerful force of change who is empowering a collective team – made up of primarily female leaders in the spaces of social work, policing, child protection healthcare and more, who are collectively creating a community of hope for children impacted by abuse and neglect.  

Ginny Becker was driving home from her marketing and business development job one day when she realized there was a disconnect in her professional life. “I felt like what I was doing didn’t matter to anybody,” she says. “I went to work the next day and gave two weeks’ notice without knowing where I was going to go. But my gut was telling me to do something different.”

Becker was recently recognized as a 2023 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Social Change Regional Winner. For more than seven years, she has led the Child & Youth Advocacy Centre (CYAC) in Kelowna, guiding a collective community response to protecting children from abuse.

After her first foray into the not-for-profit sector took her to a government agency, she was presented with the opportunity to help build a Child & Youth Advocacy Centre in her community. She initially declined the offer, but her then nine-year old daughter convinced her it was the right thing to do. “I told her I was trying to decide between the job I had (which was a really good job and the kind of job grown-ups are supposed to want), and the chance to do something really meaningful in our community and build a Centre for kids who need help. To which my very wise nine-year-old said, without hesitation, ‘Well, that doesn’t sound like a hard choice at all.’”

Put that way, Becker took a leap of faith to help build the CYAC of Kelowna. “If people have a calling, I’m pretty sure I’ve found mine in this work for vulnerable kids.”

Creating a more hopeful future for children impacted by abuse and neglect

Becker explains that the Child & Youth Advocacy Centre (CYAC) model is not new. In fact, there are close to 50 CYACs in Canada. While each centre is uniquely governed and structured, they share a common vision of a community of hope where children feel safe, believed, and nurtured, and a purpose to provide an inspired, child-friendly environment dedicated to supporting those impacted by child abuse and neglect.  With 1 in 3 Canadian children impacted by abuse before the age of 15, Becker and her team are there to ensure they receive the compassion and trauma-informed care they deserve.

The CYAC not only creates an environment where children can feel safe and welcome, but it also makes the entire system work better for them. “We have driven significant system change through this space,” Becker says.  “By coming here, every day, we’re creating a much brighter path forward for children. While we don’t get to change what happened to the children that come here, we are giving them a much better shot at a bright future than what the traditional system would have provided.”

Leading with vision to create system change

Becker leads a team of frontline heroes who are doing the heavy lifting in terms of helping vulnerable children and their families. But to achieve the vision of a community of hope and safety for children, she must lead, inspire, and galvanize multiple partner agencies, organizations and individuals to adhere to a unified vision.“It’s complicated because we work with really big agencies that we technically have no power over,” she says, explaining that most people collaborating in the building report to someone else.  

“It’s about leading with purpose rather than authority. My job is to challenge and inspire others to think and do differently, to look beyond the barriers and find collaborative solutions that put kids at the centre of our thinking. A big part of our job here is to drive meaningful and sustainable system change. We do it by working together.”

Becker and her team have also been able to advance their vision thanks to a strong and lasting partnership with RBC. “We have been an RBC client right out of the gate, and also the grateful recipient of a grant through the RBC Foundation,” she says.  Further, an RBC Wealth Manager in their community is currently working on a significant fundraising initiative for CYAC. “We’ve had a beautiful relationship with RBC from the beginning. I can’t say enough about institutions like RBC who put supporting community into the fabric of what they do.”

Celebrating the power of women

This International Women’s Day, Ginny Becker’s story is a testament to the power and progress of women. “Each day I find myself working with powerful women in executive-level positions from policing, child protection, healthcare and more. If you want to see women leading change and making a difference, you don’t have to look any further than areas where service to the vulnerable exists.”

At the same time, she enters each day knowing there is always work to be done. “I’m a huge believer in the idea that there are no finish lines when it comes to equity, inclusion and respect. I think this is true for all marginalized communities – wherever we think we are making progress, there is unquestioningly more work to be done.” But she also feels it’s important to celebrate progress and to acknowledge the wins along the way. “The thing that gives me the most hope is witnessing women in leadership who have broken down long-held walls and who continue to take down walls that pop up along the way to ensure progress continues.”

As winner of the 2023 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards for Social Change, Becker is grateful on several levels.  “People who go into not-for-profit don’t do it for the recognition. But I have a lot of pride in the system changes we have been able to achieve through this organization.”

“The work we do is so often in the shadows,” she says. “So this level of recognition shines a light not on me, but on this organization and every other CYAC across the country.”

This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.

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