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This year has made us all painfully aware of the need for additional supports in long term care homes. One of the issues identified is staffing shortages. Personal Support Workers (PSWs) are the backbone of the care team in long term care homes. Among those answering the call to become qualified to work as PSWs in long term care homes are two refugees: Wahiba Habib, a widow (sponsored by the Ottawa South Committee for Refugee Support (OSCRS)), who arrived in Ottawa three years ago from Syria with her mother and two sons, and Marie-Claire Ndayishimiye, who just arrived in Ottawa this past Christmas. She arrived from Burundi to be reunited with her husband Guido, who had been forced to flee their native country four years ago. OSCRS has provided assistance to Guido and his family.

Both women came to Ottawa seeking safety for their families. Since their arrival, they have been working hard to acquire the skills and experience needed to make their way in their adopted country. Now they will be applying their skills, experience and training to help those who are elderly, ill or who need help with daily tasks in their new role as Personal Support Workers.

Wahiba is enrolled in the PSW program at Willis College. Her tuition costs were covered through a scholarship program funded by the Ontario government designed to increase the number of graduates to help address the staffing shortage in long term care homes. She is grateful for the donation from a community member of a laptop needed to complete the course. Wahiba looks forward to working as part of a team to provide support to residents in long term care homes.

Marie-Claire completed her training at Centre De Formation Et Agence Nestor in Gatineau, Quebec where the PSW program is offered in French. (Being a native Burundian, Marie-Claire’s first language is French.) Marie-Claire’s tuition was not covered by a government grant. When asked about the fees, she stated that “paying the training fees was not an easy task. But I am grateful to the Canadian community and especially to the Ottawa South Committee for Refugee Support, who helped to pay for my PSW training.”

Both Marie-Claire and Wahiba feel that the Personal Support Worker program is very important, especially now given the challenges of the pandemic. Marie-Claire described the PSW program as a program that saves and protects lives, that is why working in this program is so valuable. When asked why she entered the PSW program, MarieClaire gave two main reasons; “I like the PSW program because for more than 10 years, I have been doing voluntary work with the seniors in my home country (Burundi). In fact, I have been volunteering with seniors in different areas including hospitals, associations and in churches. The second reason is that I want to help my new community, especially in this period of the COVID-19 pandemic where there is a great need for PSWs in Ottawa. I want to be useful in this hard period.”

Wahiba is still working on completing her PSW classroom training. She is excited about continuing to learn how to work as part of a care team and all of the foundations of PSW training. Wahiba looks forward to taking her place on a care team upon completion of her training.

Marie-Claire has completed the classroom portion of her PSW training and is now ready to begin her internship. She is currently seeking a placement for her internship. Please contact OSCRS (at if you have any leads or suggestions to assist her in finding a placement. MarieClaire is keen to begin her new career offering support to some of our most vulnerable citizens.

“I am so excited to start helping my new Canadian community as they welcomed me with the most love that I have ever seen in my life,” she says.

She will be a truly wonderful asset in any setting.

The Ottawa South Committee for Refugee Support works in partnership with Trinity Anglican Church and other community groups supporting refugees. Currently, OSCRS is actively working to help bring a Congolese refugee family waiting in South Africa. If you would like to contribute as a volunteer, OSCRS can be reached at To contribute financially, you may write a cheque to Trinity Anglican Church and mark it for refugee support. Cheques can be sent to 1230 Bank St., Ottawa, K1S 3Y3 to receive a tax receipt. OSCRS can also be found on Canada Helps: charities/trinity-anglican-church

Cindy May is a resident of Old Ottawa South and a member of OSCRS. PAGE 20