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

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

The Cowichan Tribes’ gymnasium at 5574 River Road is now operating as an extreme weather shelter. (Submitted photo)
New extreme weather shelter opens on River Road in Duncan

New facility should relieve some pressure on Warmland House

Dementia doesn’t just affect the person living with a diagnosis; it affects caregivers, family, friends and their community. (Submitted)
January is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

“Raise your voice: Dementia, long-term care and COVID-19” on Jan. 27

The firefighters at the Mesachie Lake fire hall could soon be working out of a new retrofitted building if the Cowichan V alley Regional District is successful with its application for a $350,000 federal grant to fund the project. (File photo)
Major retrofit planned for Mesachie Lake fire hall

CVRD applies for $350,000 federal grant

Dog owners, from left, Marlyn Briggs with Nayla, Marjory Sutherland with Effie and Mick, and Christina Godbolt with Conon walk their pets frequently at the Chemainus Ball Park but are growing increasingly concerned about drugs being found discarded in the area. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Puppy requires emergency treatment 3 times after ingesting drugs from Chemainus parks

Dog owners walking in Chemainus parks urged to take caution

The Cowichan Valley School District is holding an online session to discuss the future of Koksilah Elementary School, closed since 2013. (File photo)
What’s the future of the old Koksilah Elementary School?

The district is hoping to collect feedback on options for the future of the school.

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

Terry Keogh, an RDN Transit driver, used his paramedic skills the morning of Jan. 22 after coming across an unconscious woman along his route in downtown Nanaimo. (RDN Transit photo)
Nanaimo transit driver stops his bus and helps get overdosing woman breathing again

Former EMT from Ireland performed CPR on a woman in downtown Nanaimo on Friday

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

Black Press file photo
Investigation at remote burned-out Vancouver Island cabin reveals human remains

Identity of victim not released, believed to be the owner of an SUV vehicle found parked nearby

Angela Waldick is the new team photographer for the Nanaimo NightOwls. (Nanaimo NightOwls photo)
Half-blind photographer will help new Island baseball team look picture-perfect

Nanaimo NightOwls say legally blind team photographer is making history

The District of Saanich’s communications team decided to take part in a viral trend on Thursday and photoshopped U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders into a staff meeting photo. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Bernie Sanders makes guest appearance municipal staff meeting in B.C.

Vancouver Island firefighters jump on viral trend of photoshopped U.S. senator

School District 57 headquarters in Prince George. (Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)
Prince George school district settles with sexual abuse victim

Terms were part of an out-of-court settlement reached with Michael Bruneau, nearly four years after he filed a lawsuit

Surrey provincial court. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
New COVID-19 protocols set for provincial courthouses

The new rules were issued on Jan. 21, and took effect immediately

Most Read