George Chabo is seen during a Red Cross training session in Montreal on Tuesday, June 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Young Syrian refugee gives back to Quebec by working at long-term care home

These aides are being trained to replace Canadian Armed Forces personnel, most of whom have recently left the homes

George Chabo was just a teenager when the Syrian refugee arrived in Montreal in the winter of 2016, met first by Canadian Red Cross volunteers who supplied him and his family with boots and winter jackets to brave the Quebec cold.

Chabo never forgot that initial encounter and now he’s determined to give back to the humanitarian organization and the province that welcomed and helped his family.

Recently, Chabo, 21, sat attentively in a classroom — a converted hotel room where the Red Cross has been training people to do humanitarian work in long-term care homes as support aides and other tasks.

These aides are being trained to replace Canadian Armed Forces personnel, most of whom have recently left the homes.

The Red Cross is training up to 900 people to fill a variety of tasks while Quebec completes training for more than 10,000 people to work full-time as orderlies by mid-September in long-term care homes.

People like Chabo will be pressed into service in the coming weeks to fill that void and give workers some reprieve after a difficult spring on COVID-19’s front lines.

Chabo is a student, but instead of taking the summer off, he raised his hand to help the most vulnerable.

During a break last week during his intensive training session where he’s learning to take care of the elderly, Chabo explained why he answered the call.

“We went through difficult situations in our country, in Syria, we know what crises are,” Chabo said. “We understand, we have empathy.”

He wants to help those most vulnerable during a pandemic.

“It’s a difficult moment for us, but especially for them,” said the soft-spoken Chabo.

He’s convinced the job will be a good experience.

“The elderly have a great life experience … they have a lot to talk about,” said Chabo, no stranger to helping out as his own family takes care of his paternal grandparents.

“It is enriching to help them.”

He hasn’t forgotten the impression the Canadian Red Cross made during his arrival to Canada.

He first came to know the organization in Syria, ravaged by war since 2011.

It was also the Red Cross that helped his family in Lebanon, providing the medical exams needed ahead of their arrival in Canada in February 2016.

Chabo was just 17 when representatives provided them with the winter clothes and helped to fill out their immigration documents. His family — his parents, sister and brother — were sponsored by Quebecers.

ALSO READ: Migrant workers stage multi-city action for full status amid COVID-19 risks

So when Chabo caught word of the recruitment drive, he jumped at the opportunity.

He wasn’t even in need of work — he already had a job. But he was determined to give back.

“In exchange, I feel it’s a good idea to help the community like this,” he said. “I want to give back to society for its warm welcome.”

Speaking last week, Chabo said he wasn’t worried about contracting COVID-19 in long-term care residences.

The novel coronavirus has hit Quebec the hardest of all provinces, with long-term care homes and seniors’ homes accounting for more than 80 per cent of deaths.

But the situation has stabilized somewhat since the spring, he said. And Chabo is confident the measures in place and his Red Cross training will keep him safe.

The first group of trainees — about 150 people — are scheduled to start working Monday in a variety of long-term care residences.

The rest are expected to be deployed by July 29.

Stephanie Marin, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CanadaCoronavirusrefugee

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kootenay doctor among 82 physicians, dentists calling on province for mandatory mask rule

Open letter says masks should be worn in indoor public spaces, public transportation or in crowds

Structures not threatened by wildfires burning in the Arrow and Kootenay Lakes region

Official says more lightning-caused fires could occur in region over next 36 hours

Harrop-Procter Co-op restores Mill Lake trail

A shelter destroyed by wildfire in 2017 will also be rebuilt

West Kootenay region experiences drier-than-normal July: Report

The region only received around 57% of its normal precipitation during the month

No new COVID cases in Kootenay-Boundary

As of July 30, there were no additional cases in the previous two weeks

Dwindling B.C. bamboo supply leaves Calgary Zoo biologists worried about pandas

Zoo has been trying to send pandas back to China since May

Facebook launches its new TikTok clone, Instagram Reels

Facebook has a long tradition of cloning competitive services

B.C. Appeal Court prevents Victoria woman from using the term ‘death midwife’ in her job

Pashta MaryMoon claimed she had been providing “death-care services” for more than 40 years

‘We all have anxieties’: B.C.’s top doctor addresses return-to-school fears amid COVID-19

Dr. Bonnie Henry promises school restart plan safe for B.C. kids

Abbotsford mom worried about her two kids in Beirut following explosion

Shelley Beyak’s children were abducted by their dad in 2018

Young Canadians, hospitality workers bear the brunt of mental strain in 2020: report

A study by Morneau Shepell points to economic uncertainty in the pandemic as the cause for angst

Health Canada recalling more than 50 hand sanitizers in evolving list

Organization says to stop using products listed, and to consult a health-care professional

Airborne hot dog strikes Greater Victoria pedestrian

Police called to 4200-block of Quadra Street for hot dog incident

Most Read