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  • Writer's pictureWest Island News

Pierrefonds Community Project helps new immigrant children


Michael Leclair - Pierrefonds Community Project

By Isabella Belafi


When Michael Leclair received a phone call offering a job that supports children from families in need, he didn't hesitate. His passion for kids led him straight to an organization helping immigrant families settle in Montreal.


Leclair has always been passionate about helping young people. He was previously an executive director at Love Quebec, an organization that works with teenagers who have experienced violence or bullying.


“That was a tougher situation, because the organization focuses on being out on the streets helping troubled kids,”said Leclair.


When the pandemic hit and schools closed, Leclair was offered to take on the role as the executive director of the Pierrefonds Community Project. His purpose was to guide the organization through the new uncertainties that arose from the COVID-19.


“I felt that being able to help younger kids avoid life on the street and get a better start would be more of a fulfilling challenge,” said Leclair. “So, I made the switch.”


As the executive director of the organization, Leclair manages the operations and finances. He collaborates with the other members and oversees all the programs. His responsibility is to report to the board of directors and give them a rundown of what is going on every month.


“I keep them informed since the board of directors are all a bunch of volunteers who, for the most part, have day jobs, so they rely on me to run the organization,” said Leclair.


Pierrefonds Community Project offers many programs, including an after school program for children whose parents  need to stay at work until later in the day. This program runs Monday to Friday from 3 to 6 in the afternoon. They offer the kids snacks, help them with homework and introduce workshops that target mental health, as well as social and linguistic skills.


Most of the children come from families who have recently immigrated and don’t know how to speak French. The programs focus on helping children learn the language to help them integrate better into Montreal.


Through a survey conducted a few years ago, they found and noticed something surprising: 14 different mother tongues are spoken at home other than English or French.


“Even if young kids that start our program don’t know a single word of French in September, by the time May or June rolls around, they have a pretty good grasp,” said Leclair. “They're like sponges, and oh my goodness, do they just soak it up, you know?”


Afnan Moujaber is the program director, she is in charge of supervising all the programs and creating new ones. She collaborates with Leclair on the creation of new programs.


“When one of us comes up with an idea, the other one will help develop the idea,” said Moujaber. “We have two brains working together.”


They customize programs in a way that will help immigrants.“We always ask ourselves the question, what do immigrants need if it's a low income family? What do they not have access to?” said Moujaber. “We help the kids stay stimulated through different leisure programs such as physical or art programs.”


Moujaber loves working with Leclair as they both have the same visions for PCP, which are to support as many children as they can. “Michael is a very active listener and I got a lot of this ability from him as well,” said Moujaber. “It's amazing, work doesn't feel like work at all.”


Cristin Bleu is the coordinator of the newest program: the Perinatal & Visiting Mothers. The program supports women from lower-income households who are pregnant or caring for new-born babies.


“We help them find resources like food banks, clinics, daycares,” said Bleu. The Visiting Mother’s program also sends a volunteer to the house for three hours a week to watch the child.


“They can watch the baby so the mom can take a much needed shower or just rest in her bed,” said Bleu. “She can get organized because a lot of the time, they're so focused on the baby that they don't have the time to do the other things they'd like to do.”


Bleu enjoys working with Leclair as he often comes up with creative ideas. “With Michael, he's really the person that I go to for directions. Being the only male here at PCP, you don’t even realize, because of how much he's involved,” said Bleu. “He’s supportive, caring and always there to listen.”


For Leclair it’s important to support new families in every way possible. “To allow more immigrants into the country and specifically into the city, we need to create an infrastructure to make them feel as though they're not only welcome, but that they belong here.”


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1 Comment

Apr 18

I wish when we came to Canada in 1955 that there would have been services like this available.

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