Redefining the Front Lines: Part 5 – The Advocate

Our Civic Life Team has been working hard on a campaign called “Redefining the Front Lines”. We’ve interviewed people who are employed in and out of the medical field, working hard to ensure we’re safe and our basic needs are met. Their stories are an important part of our city’s efforts in COVID response and relief. We are so grateful to our interviewees for sharing their stories. 

Boban Stojanovic – LGBTQ+ Program Manager at the Centre for Newcomers

We asked Boban Stojanovic a series of questions about how the COVID-19 pandemic has shaped his work counselling LGTBQ+ newcomers at the Centre for Newcomers

What did your role look like prior to COVID-19?

Most of my time at the Centre for Newcomers, I spent working with LGBTQ+ newcomers. The majority of them are refugee claimants. Even in organized societies such as Canada, this group of people encounters numerous obstacles. I am very happy that at the Centre for Newcomers, we have recognized the needs of this particularly vulnerable group, and we started to support them. We follow them through the whole refugee process. We are the only settlement agency in Calgary to provide this type of support. As an LGBTQ + refugee who has gone through many challenges himself, I am very proud of that. 

How has your role changed after COVID-19?

We have adapted the work to the current situation. The situation is constantly changing, so we have to constantly check if, for example, a service is still available. We do most of the work from home and online. However, because of the specifics of our business, we occasionally meet clients. On this occasion, we respect all preventive measures and social distance. I must note that social distance is very difficult for us. For many of our clients, we are more than just a service provider. We are often their only friends, and sometimes they consider us members of their chosen family because they have no one else but us here. In a situation like this, it is logical for us to reach out, give a hug, and sometimes be a crying shoulder for a client. But now, it’s impossible. 

What changes has your work made in order to keep its employees safe?

Most of our work is now online. If it is necessary to meet clients, this is possible only by following extremely strict rules. This involves meeting with only one person in a specially designated room. Respect for social distance and disinfection measures are a priority. 

Do you feel you’ve received enough supports from government and your work to feel safe and secure?

Of course, the situation can always be better. However, the virus crisis has surprised the whole world and our entire country. Considering the complexity of the situation, we are very pleased with the support we have received.

Do you feel safe being on the job in the front lines?

As I said before, if all prevention measures are in place, the feeling of safety is higher. However, although there is a small dose of fear, it disappears when our clients solve a major problem and give us a smile. Not so far ago, I read an article titled “Immense Gratitude, Immaculate Immunity.” Living in these times, doing my job, I can say this is more than true. Happiness and gratitude we receive from our clients make their and our community stronger. 

How has this impacted your personal life? (Do you live away from your family? Has your routine or contact changed with them?)

I came from Eastern Europe, and over almost three decades now, we had very turbulent times. Hyperinflation, wars, weak health system and high unemployment rate. So, we develop our survival skills. Most of the time, I spent with my partner and our cat. We watch movies, TV shows, but we also talk and share our reflections on the ongoing situation. I am not a big fan of technology, but thanks to technology we can meet our friends from all over the world. 

What does it feel like to be a front-line worker in this crisis?

From the fact that in these difficult times, I still have a job, to the fact that my job makes more sense than ever, I can only say – privileged and happy.

What do you think the nature of your work or your sector will look like once COVID-19 has passed?

This is very difficult to assume. I believe this situation will have an impact on the economy. There may be fewer jobs and fewer opportunities to start a private business. All of this will affect the immigrants. It will especially affect those I work with the most – refugees. I believe in the big Canadian heart and willingness to help the one who needs it. This situation showed us that we are all vulnerable, that we are all connected and that we all depend on each other.
In a certain way, that sounds promising.

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