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arrived here, they had absolutely nothing. It was like starting all over again."
Norm, a former logger and member of the air force, had been working for the government in its immigration and employment department before the intercultural society was formed.
She recalls packing seven Vietnamese boys from one family into her van day to day making sure they made it to Tansor Elementary School before the bell rang.
Elliot was among the volunteers who ran with the torch Fendi Leather Purse when the Bomfords finally began to slow down.
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"It was wonderful really, how the community helped out," she said.
Norm passed away 10 years ago, Phyllis explained.
"There are so many nice people helping and part of the society now and it's great to see them," she said, noting she also occasionally runs into children of the first Vietnamese families.
The Bomfords gave a hand to Vietnamese families as well as East Indian and Mexican immigrants, first finding homes, and then collecting donations and government grants for clothing, furniture, and bedding.
of a natural extension of my interests," Elliot said of linking arms with CIS's first round of volunteers including the Bomfords and Paldi's Joan Mayo.
Elliot, a former Maple Bay School teacher, said CIS has grown from only about six people on the board to about three times that, as well about 16 paid staffers compared to only three when it first began operating.
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CIS came to be in 1981 when Vietnamese refugees fleeing post war perils made their way to the valley.
Founding members Bomford and late husband Norm were among the key supporters.
Teachers from the schools had also been meeting and were calling for a formal social society for immigrants.
Volunteers, including government employees, church and community groups, teachers and concerned citizens, stepped up to help the newcomers get settled.
Phyllis, originally from North Vancouver, says Norm was great with people.
Originally a grassroots group, with a very organic mandate, it is now a society that hosts a whack of workshops, programs, classes and courses and fun community events centred around Cowichan's culture and easing immigrants in.
Then came Cowichan's Intercultural and Immigrant Aid Society.
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Intercultural society celebrates 30 years of cultural welcoming
She and daughter Christine are planning on attending CIS's celebration gala Saturday.
Intercultural Society has actually expanded considerably in the last decade," CIS board member and past president Peter Elliot said. "There's still a cultural need and there's still a need for many people to learn English."
The Cowichan Intercultural Society, or what was known then as the Intercultural and Immigration Aid Society, is holding its 30th anniversary celebration Saturday with a string of events.
"It was a very interesting life for my husband and I," Bomford, 89, said from her home Wednesday. "When you're sitting here, you know at my age, and just thinking about things and remembering all these people, it's just great. My husband used to love when people stopped and said 'Hello.'"
"There were about 80 Vietnamese families that came here," Phyllis remembered. "We realized then, there were also a lot of other people too here needing help.
"I'm not able to attend meetings anymore but I'm still keeping very busy," she said.
Volunteers had to find a meeting place, as well as collect cash and donations to keep the newcomers and the organization afloat, Phyllis explained.
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