When new immigrants and refugees arrive at the Barbara Mitchell Family Resource Centre in Winnipeg, they often meet volunteers Larry and Doreen Slashinsky at the English café, a place where they can safely practise their listening and speaking skills.

The Slashinskys are former teachers who have been volunteering at the centre for two years. In addition to the English café, Doreen greets visitors at the front desk and helps unload and package goods for the centre's food bank—which serves 60-80 families twice a month—while Larry assists with the drop-in service for youth aged 13-18.

“The centre has sports and activities for teens and young adults to keep them off the streets,” says Larry. “We've taught them employment and job search skills and they appreciate our advice.”

The Slashinskys began volunteering at the centre because it was located close by and they had always enjoyed meeting newcomers to Canada. For example, they once met a Bhutanese woman who lived in refugee camps in Nepal. She and her husband were in their early 20s and expecting their first child. Unaware of what was available or how to book appointments, they could have easily felt helpless in Canada.

“We were the contact persons to get them to the hospital and take them to appointments,” says Larry. “We ended up taking them to the hospital at 11 p.m. for a delivery and they were so thankful afterward and wanted to cook us lunch.

“We've had all kinds of experiences that have been really great and we just hope the people we're helping are happy here and that life works out for them.”

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