Every day, within Canada and across the globe, there are people in crisis who are looking for support. At the same time, there are people who have a deep calling to reach out and lend a helping hand.
One such person is Assil Alnaser, a humanitarian aid worker with the Canadian Red Cross. Assil joined the Canadian Red Cross two years ago, and since then has made a fulfilling career out of helping others.
While you've likely heard of the Canadian Red Cross, you may not be aware of how many programs and services the organization offers. The Canadian Red Cross supports Canadian and international communities in tons of ways, such as providing relief following natural disasters, responding to emergencies, offering health and wellness check-ins, mentoring youth, and distributing food and essential supplies to those in need.
Assil's work is primarily with the First Contact Program, where she helps refugee claimants in Canada access the tools that will help them avoid marginalization, distress and exploitation. Being a former refugee herself and having worked on the refugee issue in different parts of the world including Europe, the U.S. and the Middle East, Assil knew the First Contact Program was a great fit for her.
Right now, the Canadian Red Cross is looking for employees and volunteers to fill many different positions, including designers and communications experts, medical professionals, safety specialists and equipment technicians. We spoke with Assil about her personal experience working with the Red Cross, and she shared why it may be the perfect fit for you too.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Tell us about your experience with the Canadian Red Cross. Why did you decide to work there?
"My search, like many others, was to find a purpose. I joined the Canadian Red Cross two years ago as part of the First Contact team in Toronto. It has been a very meaningful and fulfilling experience in my life. I joined because of my strong beliefs in humanitarian work and the Red Cross' shared values. Also, as a refugee myself, I wanted to contribute to the country that accepted and embraced me as well as many other immigrants."
What is the Canadian Red Cross First Contact program? And why do you think Canadians should want to join?
"The First Contact program assists refugee claimants and provides them with the right referrals and information they need. We assist our clients with shelter referrals, legal aid, employment services, social assistance and other services."
"First Contact also helps clients to navigate the immigration and asylum system inside Canada. It's a part of a network of agencies that specialize in services for refugee claimants, and our work includes providing guidance and key information for those first days in which refugees may have difficulties, like language barriers."
Did you receive training when you first joined the First Contact program? What kind of training did you receive?
"Once I joined the First Contact team, I received plenty of training related to Red Cross work and values, as well as emergency first aid. I also received specific program training like dealing with vulnerable populations and the different types of services available to refugee claimants and newcomers."
What drew you to working with refugee claimants in Canada?
"Working with First Contact provides volunteers with a great opportunity to help newcomers to settle down in Canada as well as start their integration process. It's a great place to be exposed to diversity and learn about different cultures, asylum systems, and social services available for newcomers."
What has your experience with the Canadian Red Cross First Contact program taught you?
"Working with the Red Cross showed me the importance of humanitarian work. We can always do better and improve vulnerable lives."
What advice do you have for someone who may be interested in volunteering or working with the Canadian Red Cross First Contact program?
"I would recommend volunteering with the Canadian Red Cross to understand the humanitarian values that we all share regardless of race, ethnicity and religion. By volunteering or working with the Canadian Red Cross, you can build a stronger community and help people who are suffering, allowing you to improve — and sometimes even save — their lives."
What advice do you have for Canadians who want to make an impact in their community?
"Working with the Canadian Red Cross feels like being part of a family — a family that has your same beliefs and goals. It's so inspiring and motivating to work every day with staff and volunteers who have the same purpose and passion, and it is so rewarding to know that our programs leave a positive impact on the Canadian community and the world."
In her work for the Canadian Red Cross, Assil found a meaningful career that allows her to help people and communities in Canada and around the world every day. Assil's message to others with a similar calling is simple: there are opportunities — both as a volunteer and paid — for anyone who wants to feel like their work is making a difference.
Whether your calling is to help refugees find a home in a new country, to support people recovering from natural disasters, to mentor children or to run things behind the scenes, there are plenty of ways for you to contribute to a better world and grow your career at the same time.
If the Canadian Red Cross sounds like the chance you've been waiting for, you can apply directly on the website for the position that suits you best.
To learn more about volunteering with the Canadian Red Cross, visit their website. To keep up with all the latest news, follow them on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok.
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