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Keeping isolated people in the here and now

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Testimonial by Marie Bernatchez, Canadian Red Cross volunteer
 
Marie Bernatchez, Canadian Red Cross volunteerWith the Red Cross for over a dozen years, I have been deployed to the scene of unimaginable emergencies many times, including the Lac-Mégantic railway tragedy, the Fort McMurray wildfire, the recent floods in Eastern Canada and to Montreal to welcome many Syrian refugees. Unfortunately, I understand too well the plight of people confronted with extraordinary situations.

I was trained to help and support people in their most vulnerable moments, and that is why I continue to be involved with the Red Cross year after year. Each of my “on the scene” presences allows me to have a positive impact and bring comfort in some way.

In this pandemic period, our interventions are rather made by telephone, but our role is just as important! It was therefore natural for me to make my expertise available to the most vulnerable, such as our elders, during these difficult times.

Over the past two months, I have been on the phone, making friendly calls to vulnerable or isolated people in the comfort of my living room. My "job" is to call them to counter their isolation and make sure they are okay.

Living by oneself while self-isolating and limiting trips outside of the house is not easy. But imagine how difficult the experience would be for senior citizens who have to face physical distancing without a strong support network.

During our calls, they confide in me about their anxieties, anger, precarious situations, as well as their pressing needs. I also help them solve their problems by referring them to complementary resources, like food banks for example.

The majority of them want to be called back the following week.

Keeping isolated people in the here and now allows them to live better during these troubling times.
Humbly, I think these phone calls are really good for them. - Marie Bernatchez

I’ll admit that I am particularly fond of this 67-year-old single woman with whom I have spoken with three times so far. During our first call, she spoke to me at length about her loneliness. I listened to her, then asked her what her favorite hobbies were.

The next week, she recognized my voice and told me that she had overcome her boredom by drawing birds and writing poems; her tone was more playful, and she was no longer crying. By the third call, she told me she had added short walks to her routine, was feeling better, and had a great time during our call.

It’s hard to describe the feeling of accomplishment I get when I realize the positive impact I have just by having a conversation with someone. I am proud to be part of the Red Cross humanitarian network and to support the most vulnerable people during this difficult time.
 

Thank you, Marie, for all you do! 
 

The Canadian Red Cross is offering virtual care over the phone in Quebec, Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island to provide referrals, guidance and emotional support to help people through their isolation period. 
 
Thanks to a contribution from Bell Let’s Talk, the Canadian Red Cross is expanding its Friendly Calls program in Québec, Ontario and Atlantic Canada.

 
In Atlantic Canada
Those feeling lonely or isolated due to COVID-19 restrictions and would like to receive regularly scheduled calls from the Canadian Red Cross can contact us Monday-Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. AT (or 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. NT) toll-free at 1-833-729-0144 to register for the program.
 
In Ontario
Those wishing to receive Friendly Calls should call their nearest Red Cross branch to sign up.
 
In Quebec
Those who are already registered with the friendly calls program will continue to receive virtual support from Red Cross teams, thanks to funding from Bell Let’s Talk.
 
In Saskachewan
There is also a Friendly Phone Program in Saskatchewan to reach isolated seniors.



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