Nova Scotia

Parker Street food bank seeks volunteers who can speak Arabic

The Parker Street Food and Furniture Bank says it's seeing more newcomers to Halifax who don't know how to speak English and it's looking for volunteers who can help.

The organization's operations manager estimates 250 new clients don't speak English

Kevin McKay, operations manager for Parker Street Food & Furniture Bank, says he needs volunteers who can speak Arabic. (Steve Berry/CBC)

The Parker Street Food and Furniture Bank is looking for volunteers who can speak Arabic.

The food bank says it's taken on 500 new clients since January and half of them do not speak English — and none of their current volunteers speak Arabic.

"It's a huge increase for us. Many of those people are people who — obviously by the information they're providing for us for their identification — are new residents of Canada, most likely Syrian refugees," said Kevin McKay, operations manager for Parker Street Food & Furniture Bank.

McKay says the clients are asking for food, clothing, furniture, and household goods.

"They're needing basically the same thing anyone who comes into Parker Street would need," he said.

One-sided communication

He says sometimes the clients come in with a translator, but that a lot of the time, the conversation is "fairly one-sided."

"If they haven't been coached and they don't have somebody there who can do the translating, there's a lot of smiles,  there's probably some hand communication and that kind of thing," McKay said.

The food bank has taken to Facebook and Twitter to find volunteers who can speak Arabic.

"We're looking for people who can give us assistance on a regular day helping with serving the people who come here, not just the Arabic-speaking people, but everybody who is coming here," McKay said.

McKay says he doesn't know why he's seeing more Arabic-speaking clients.

"As to the why people are coming to us, if they are newcomers to Canada being sponsored by the government or whomever, that I can't even answer."


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.