Syrian refugees: Nova Scotia 211 line swamped with calls offering help

Nova Scotia's 211 phone service is getting more than double its normal call volume after the line was opened to residents wishing to offer help to Syrian refugees.

211 opened their lines Tuesday so people could offer assistance to Syrian refugees

Nova Scotia's 211 line logged 220 calls — more than double the daily average of 100 calls. (CBC)

Nova Scotia's 211 information service has been swamped with calls offering help to Syrian refugees bound for the province — this less than a day after the province announced the line would receive and record offers of assistance to refugees.

"We're just humbled in terms of not only the numbers of people who have called, but the tremendous scope of what they are offering," said Mike Myette, executive director of 211.

Myette said by midnight, his operators logged 220 calls — more than double the daily average of 100 calls.

The normal role of 211 is to connect Nova Scotians with social services provided by government and non-profit organizations. Now Nova Scotians are unleashing a flood of assistance.

"It's everything you can imagine, from offers of housing to a myriad of household goods, dishes, duvets, you name it in terms of household goods," he said.

Myette says companies are also offering services, such as cleaning, to support refugees once they arrive.

He says there are also offers of financial assistance and volunteer time.

"They're like, 'I'll volunteer in any way I can,'" he said.

Gerry Mills, a board member with Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia, says donations of cash and volunteer time are the most helpful at this point.

Canada has committed to receiving 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of December — but there's no word yet on how many of those will land in Nova Scotia, and when.

The Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia estimates that Nova Scotia could receive 600 to 700 refugees, but that number hasn't been confirmed by the federal government.

For now, Myette apologizes to callers who are experiencing longer waits at 211. He wants the public to know that inquiries and offers of assistance can be sent by email to help@ns.211.ca

Meanwhile, Myette says the staff of six telephone operators are enduring the hectic pace.

"They feel honoured to have been asked to help out in a situation that's as important as this to Nova Scotia," he said.

About the Author

Jack Julian

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Jack Julian is a data journalist in the Halifax newsroom. This is a new position, and he's excited about it. He likes surprises in his stories. Email: jack.julian@cbc.ca Twitter: @jackjulian

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