It wasn't on their vacation to-do list, but Erin MacLean-Berko's family decided to help out after coming across thousands of refugees fleeing Syria and Afghanistan while travelling through Europe this summer.

MacLean-Berko, a music instructor at Mount Royal University Conservatory, said it was a chance encounter.

Erin MacLean-Berko and her family

Erin MacLean-Berko and her family learned from an experience they had while on vacation in Europe this summer. (Erin MacLean-Berko)

"It was completely by accident," she told CBC's Alberta@Noon on Tuesday about the family's European vacation that led them to Vienna, Austria, in early September.

"We had been in a media bubble for a little while. The main refugee camp was at the main train station so we sort of stumbled upon it by accident."

Syrian Refugee in Vienna

This little girl takes a break from all the noise inside the terminal. (Erin MacLean-Berko)

The family had stumbled across thousands of refugees escaping war zones and decided to help.

Lawyer stand Syrian refugees

A "lawyer stand" was set up to help the refugees. (Erin Maclean-Berko)

"In the beginning it was extremely chaotic and disorganized because I don't think anyone anticipated this type of movement, (but) there was sense of support. There were signs everywhere saying 'Refugees Welcome,'" MacLean-Berko said.

Austria Migrants Demonstration

People hold a banner reading "Refugees Welcome" during a demonstration for a change in Austrian and European refugee policy in Vienna, Austria, in early October. (Christian Bruna/Associated Press)

She said her family was drawn to helping the children.

"These poor men and women were trying to provide a sense of normalcy for their children, playing on the floor with them. No toys."

Erin MacLean-Berko

Erin MacLean-Berko wanders through the main train station in Vienna where thousands of refugees from war zones were staying temporarily in September. (Erin MacLean-Berko)

So the family headed to a nearby toy store. Next it was winter clothing for refugees with long, cold winter nights ahead of them.

Austria Migrants

Migrants and refugees board a train from Vienna to Salzburg at the Westbahnhof train station in Vienna in September. (Ronald Zak/Associated Press)

Returning to Calgary with this experience, MacLean-Berko said she was disappointed at the reaction by some people to helping refugees.

"History will judge us and I think we have a human obligation. Are there risks? Yes (but) there are risks venturing into certain neighbourhoods in Calgary," she said.

Austria Migrants

Migrants and refugees walk along railway tracks after they arrived in September at the border between Austria and Hungary near Heiligenkreuz, about 180 kilometres south of Vienna. (Christian Bruna/The Associated Press)

MacLean-Berko says she plans to stay in touch with contacts she made from the experience and do what she can to help.

Erin MacLean-Berko

Erin MacLean-Berko gives a refugee a pack of cigarettes at a train station in Vienna where thousands were staying temporarily in September. (Erin MacLean-Berko)

She's urging other Calgarians to learn more and act.

"To be intimidated by people that need our help is just foolish."