At Montreal, in the Habitations Jeanne-Mance (HJM).

Situated in the centre of the city of Montreal, in a housing complex of 796 moderately-priced dwellings that came into being in 1959. This scheme comprises five 12-storey tower blocks, 35 smaller blocks, and 50 family houses. 
A population of 1660 persons from 70 different countries, among whom 66 languages are spoken. They come from North South and Central America, the Caribbean, Europe, Eastern Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia. 
A population where we find the names Tremblay, Prieur, St-Hilaire, Paiement, Durocher, and, today, I would add Ahmed, Khan, Mian, Len, Gomez, Fakun, Ullah. 
 
Socio-demographic statistics: population of HJM by age group: 
 0-17 yrs  443 
18-54 yrs  610 
55+ yrs   607 
 
A little history! 
 
Already in 1942, the community at rue St-Hubert offered home help, nursing and social work services to the local families. In 1965, this community closed to open in another neighbourhood called Hochelaga-Mainonneuve. But, we kept in our heart the desire to return to live in the Habitations Jeanne-Mance, where families we had known previously lived. 
 
On the 1st September 1967, a team of 4 LSA went to live on the 8th floor of 250 Boul. De Maisonneuve Est so as to be a presence in proximity to the people. 
 
I have been part of that journey from the beginning up to today!! 
 
Projects and directions during those 44 years 
 
Responsible, with the community, we provided domiciliary services, with the three professions mentioned above. A group of the Fraternity of Our Lady of the Assumption received new members with the people there. 
Being drawn into a community dynamic I was challenged to join with other residents so as to set up the tenants association for the HJM complex. Together, we provided a service over several years. 
 
Later, an employment committee came into being with a community worker of the Local Centre for Community Services, known as "CLSC" and with the residents. 
We wished to challenge the institutions and business people of the area in order to promote employment for the people of the Habitations Jeanne-Mance. 
Over the fifteen years this was in existence young people were able to find work during the summer season. Others did so through an integration programme that leads to permanent employment. 
Moreover, immigrants where also enabled to have their skills recognised by having their degrees or diplomas given an equivalent rating in this country. 
 
I participated in the Friendship Group that provided a time of conversation in French and which made it possible to have sharing between the different cultures. This group was in liaison with the French courses provided by the Montreal schools commission. 
 
Now, I belong to the Intervenantes de Milieu (IM) (Local Interveners). Following a study on the isolation of elderly people we, with other Interveners from community groups, made door-to-door visits in the five tower blocks of HJM and are still continuing to follow this up. It is a profession that is beginning to take shape and is linked with the personnel of the Health and Social Services Centre and the local Centre of Community Services. 
 
I say to myself that there is no age limit for the surprises life has in store for us! I am 85 years old.
 
In September 2011, the Ethical Research Committee of the Health and Social Services Centre asked me to be one of the persons who might provide information to the committee about the projects they have to study: the factors involved and the effects on the communities concerned. 
 
Throughout those years spent with a population in constant movement, my existence as a community being took on unsuspected dimensions. All through these various stages of life, my love for the mission made me create bonds of sharing, mutual help and solidarity with various LSA and in networks. 
For several years I have been participating in the "Chemins" Basic Community, in discussion groups on biblical and contextual theology subjects. They are occasions for seeking and for personal growth, for sharing at a deep level taking account of our lived experience in which the movement of the Spirit is revealed.. 
What still give me energy and joy is helping to make it possible for persons to become the subject of their destiny, it is retaining the capacity for indignation in the face of all forms of exploitation and continuing to believe that a better world is possible. 
 
I feel I am a pilgrim on the route of the migrants. 
In my comings and goings a glance, a smile, a gesture, a few words in English – these are the beginning of communication. 
 
Journey with the world of today, following the Nazarene. It is in journeying that the Gospel is lived and written. And I am having a good journey. 
 
Berthe, Little Sister of the Assumption
31/07/2012
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