Sherbrooke residents flock to help incoming Syrian refugees

The organization mandated with helping refugees in Sherbrooke held an emergency meeting to train an influx of new volunteers.

Community group Service d'Aide aux Néo-Canadiens says 100 people volunteered in last week

Volunteer Brigitte Robert highlights the importance of welcoming Syrian refugees

6 years ago
The Service d'Aide aux Néo-Canadiens in Sherbrooke put on a seminar to tell volunteers how they can help newly-arrived refugees. 0:38

The organization mandated with helping refugees in Sherbrooke held an emergency meeting on Friday to train an influx of new volunteers.

Over the last week, staff members at Service d'Aide aux Néo-Canadiens have received over 100 requests from people in the area who want to help newcomers.

It's good news for the group, which will welcome 100 refugees in the next month, and then another 110 by the end of next year.

Volunteer coordinator Jenny Lopez had to hold two separate volunteer training classes to prep volunteers: one on Friday, and one the following week.

She believes the heightened awareness and media coverage surrounding Canada's commitment to accepting refugees is the reason people are volunteering in droves.

"Because of the events of recent weeks, people are taking action," she said. "And that's good news, because we need the help."

Sherbrooke community group Service d'Aide aux Néo-Canadiens held a special meeting on Friday to train the dozens of people who want to welcome Syrian refugees. (Kate McKenna/CBC)

Sherbrooke resident Brigitte Robert is a first-time volunteer with the centre. She'd thought about sending an application in the past, but her work schedule got in the way.

What finally encouraged her, she said, was hearing people say in the wake of the Paris attacks that Quebec should not accept refugees. 

"There has been tension in the province of Quebec and in Canada in general in welcoming refugees. For me, that sensitised me to make an effort to actually make them feel welcome," she said.

How do volunteers help?

Volunteers will be integral to integrating the refugees into the community. Service d'Aide aux Néo-Canadiens has been helping newcomers for over 60 years, and in that time, they've developed a step-by-step program for the first few days after a refugee arrives in Canada.

Sherbrooke resident Brigitte Robert and her daughter, Maxime, attended a special meeting to train volunteers to work with refugees. (Kate McKenna/CBC)
When a new Syrian family arrives, they're paired with a Québecois family. The local family will help with everything from the first grocery run to showing the newcomers how to use laundromats.

They're also encouraged to teach the refugees about Canadian culture — for example, in December, teaching them about some Christmas traditions.

Some volunteers will be asked to do administrative work, like helping newcomers fill out paperwork or do their taxes.


Kate McKenna is a journalist with CBC Montreal. Email her at


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?