Meet our Montrealer of the Month: Anwar Alhjooj
Montreal City Mission social worker helps build bridges between communities
Those who work with Anwar Alhjooj say he's always making sure everyone around him feels secure, comfortable and ready to contribute.
The social worker and intercultural program co-ordinator at the Montreal City Mission is our latest Montrealer of the Month.
He's a Palestinian who trained to be a lawyer in Italy and went on to work as a defence attorney in Israel. In 2012, he came to Canada so his wife could pursue her PhD at McGill University.
A few years later, he started volunteering at the Montreal City Mission. At the time, the mission was working to help settle Syrian refugees who had come to Montreal to rebuild their lives.
Alhjooj says he saw his role as finding ways to help the Syrian children feel valued in their new home.
"We try to focus on positive energy, especially when we are working with newcomers and refugees," he told CBC Montreal's Let's Go when he was reached by phone to inform him that he'd been selected as the Montrealer of the Month.
Montreal City Mission director Paula Kline says Alhjooj's selfless spirit makes him a perfect candidate.
"He really represents the best of Montreal, I think. Diversity, energy, passion," said Kline.
"If somebody's in trouble, has a problem, he really leaves no stone unturned to help them."
He helped create a summer camp in the West Island for about 30 children who settled there, and says it's made him happy to see them grow and come out of their shells, some even becoming camp counsellors.
Speaking Arabic and Hebrew, he was able to help bring together people of different faiths and backgrounds. And he's helped organize an interfaith Iftar, or breaking of the fast.
He now works full time at the mission.
"What I like about Anwar is when he's in a room full of people, he's always looking for somebody who's maybe not quite as involved as they could be," said Royal Orr, a board member at the mission.
"Anwar makes sure that he goes to that person or those people, he makes sure that they feel welcome."
Valerie Shannon, the elder-in-residence at the mission, says Alhjooj is "an extraordinary man."
"He brings people together from different backgrounds and he's able to help people find common ground. And that to me is very special," she said.
Louise Olivier, one of Alhjooj's co-workers at the mission's legal clinic, pointed to his generosity and positive attitude.
"And he has great, great ideas to help the people who need it," she said.
Aljhooj was humble about being selected as Montrealer of the Month — pointing instead to the Montrealers he helps.
"All people who come here, they really love Montreal," he said, adding that it's our obligation to "open the door" for them to show us what they're capable of.
"When someone asks me where I'm working, I say I'm not working — I'm having fun," he said.
Listen to the full segment below:
Do you know a Montrealer who is a positive force in the world? Maybe it's the recycling collector, the teacher who takes the extra time, the barista who goes the extra mile, or the teen who cut your lawn when you were not feeling your best.
Let us know: send an email explaining what kind of an impact this person has had on their community to firstname.lastname@example.org.
With files from CBC Montreal's Let's Go