Kathy Thomas

Building a Welcoming and Inclusive Community

When Elena Goubanova and her family arrived in Ottawa from Kazakhstan in 1998, she felt completely lost. There was also the culture shock of learning how things work in Canada — how to rent an apartment, register children for schools, book medical appointments and find a job. What she didn’t realize is that she would quickly meet a woman who would be instrumental in making her new home a more welcoming community.

Shortly after arriving in the Westboro neighbourhood of the nation’s capital, Elena introduced herself to a few neighbours. The very next day, she was surprised to find a welcome basket on her doorstop. Ever since that day, her neighbour, Kathy Thomas, has become Elena’s guardian angel, a close friend and a role model.

“Kathy helped my oldest daughter, a teenager at the time, to find her first job,” explains Elena. “Her husband recommended an agency when I was searching for a job. Time and time again they and their children extended a helping hand for us in the journey of adaptation to our new life.”

“It is not only about me and my family,” remarks Elena. “Kathy opens the doors of her house to people from all walks of life. I met many other newcomers to Ottawa from different countries and cultures at her fundraising Pink Parties for breast cancer. Kathy creates a welcoming and inclusive community around her and we all become friends. Her heart and soul imbue such important values as treating everybody with unconditional respect and g