The Gleaner

Have time for a chat?

The Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de la Montérégie-Ouest (CISSSMO) and the Montérégie West Community Network (MWCN) are looking for chatty English-speaking volunteers to help healthcare workers improve their language skills.

The “Let’s Chat” program started two years ago when the MWCN first partnered with the CISSSMO to pair seniors with employees. “We wanted people to check up on the seniors, and the employees wanted to learn to speak English,” says the MWCN’s executive director, Pauline Wiedow.

“It was a win-win, because they both felt that they were doing something important,” says Wiedow. “It was purposeful for our members. They felt like they were doing something for the healthcare system.”

The benefits were just as apparent for the CISSSMO.

Carissa Ann Clayberg, who works as a liaison officer in the CISSSMO’s English access program, says the idea behind the project stemmed from her personal experience. “I’m from upstate New York originally, and when I came here, I wanted to learn French; but I wasn’t able to practice until I met French-speaking people,” she explains.

To participate, employees had to justify the need to learn and use English within the parameters of their work. For example, one participant is a nurse who often interacts with English-speaking users and currently relies on a colleague for help. The program also includes a receptionist who regularly communicates with English families to schedule appointments for residents at a long-term care centre.

“We have a committee for diversity, equity, and inclusion, and we are well aware of our users and of their needs. If it comes up that there are linguistic needs, we want to make sure that all users have access to a quality service offer,” says Clayberg, who points out that patients have this right.

Volunteers with the program commit to a weekly 20-minute casual conversation on the phone or via Zoom or other online platforms, over lunch, in the evening, or on weekends.

The targeted start date for the program is June 24. So far, the MWCN has recruited around 20 volunteers, and at least 21 employees are interested in taking part.

For more information or to volunteer, contact the MWCN by phone at 450-691-1444, or by email at

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1 Comment

Justine Bonczek 2024-06-12 at 09:11

Wow this sounds so nice! I am def going to sign up!


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