YWCA names Women of Distinction: Catalina Horak

The YWCA Darien/Norwalk is pleased to announce the six honorees for the 2017 Women of Distinction Awards and Luncheon on May 4, 2017 at Woodway Country Club in Darien. The distinguished honorees are: Kara Nelson Baekey, Mindy Garcia, Catalina Horak, Lisa Koorbusch and Leslie Pennington.  Katie Schorr will be honored as a Young Woman of Distinction, recognizing the outstanding accomplishments of a woman under 21 years of age.

The Women of Distinction Award is bestowed in recognition of the outstanding achievements of a select group of women. Local residents and business owners nominate women who live or work in Darien and Norwalk whose significant and unique contributions have made a difference in our community. The YWCA Darien/Norwalk Women of Distinction Nominations Committee reviews the nominations and selects the honorees.

This event is open to the public. Tickets for the luncheon are on sale now and can be purchased ywcadn.org/wod. For further inquiries about this event or to become a sponsor please contact wod@ywcadn.org .

Catalina Horak

Catalina Horak, a native of Colombia, started her life work studying biology and genetics. Her studies began towards a doctorate in microbiology while living in Michigan. Along with her husband Ivan and her family, she moved to Darien in 1997.

After getting settled, Catalina discovered there was an extremely large low-income immigrant population in Stamford. Recognizing that her native language, research and organizational skills were assets, she pursued a master’s degree in non-profit management, and explored ways to serve this community where 37% its population are immigrants.

Catalina started volunteering with Neighbors Link in Mt. Kisco, New York. In 2009, realizing that Stamford could benefit from this model, she approached everyone and anyone to get initial buy in and funding and began community meetings. With a shoestring budget, a handful of volunteers and fierce determination, Neighbors Link began its work in Stamford.  It was an uphill battle, but eventually trust was earned and immigrant groups began to recognize they had advocates, not adversaries in the new organization.

In 2011, Neighbors Link, (Building One Community) opened its doors with Catalina as its sole employee. Their mission is “bring passionate people together to help immigrants and their families succeed in the community”. As a resource center for immigrants, they provide tools to educate, empower, employ and engage immigrants within the community. Six years later, Catalina is the Executive Director of this thriving non-profit organization. To date, Building One Community has assisted approximately 6,000 immigrants from 55 countries and employs 18 people.

Exceeding the initial needs of their mission, Catalina said, “the needs are way bigger than we thought, but we want to make sure we involve even more people. Our definition of success is not how many zeroes we have on the budget, it´s the programs and the impact of our programs.”  More than ever, Building One Community is an essential agency to immigrants. They are an ally, voice and advocate that is desperately needed in 2017.