In our law firm, giving back to the community is an important part of our core values. Project Genesis is an organization that is truly in line with our mission to help others in need. During their last year of law school until today, Me Etingin and Ms. Rabinovitch volunteer at Project Genesis, a grassroots, non-profit community organization located in Côte-des-Neiges, a culturally diverse neighbourhood of Montreal where many people live below the poverty line. The organization supports neighbourhood residents to face and resolve some of their difficult challenges, including housing problems, basic income security, and access to healthcare and other government programs. Its individual Services include a Storefront drop-in centre and a Home Advocacy Service.
They volunteered at the Storefront where they meet with people on a first-come-first-serve basis and discuss the person’s main issue with the help of supervisors to come up with an efficient plan of action. One of the most rewarding parts of volunteering at Project Genesis is the fact that it is so hands-on. When someone comes in with an issue, we try and narrow down the issue from the big picture to what the person’s main need is and from there we need to explain to them their rights and recourses with little time to waste. We try to waste as little time as possible. Efficiency is key. Coming to Project Genesis is very empowering for people who might be new to the country, do not speak the language, and simply want to understand their rights. Even if the news delivered is not necessarily favourable to someone, the fact that they are able to understand their situation means a lot to them. For example, many of the people who come to Project Genesis receive rent increases and are not sure what their options are. Other issues involve whether someone is eligible for social assistance and social solidarity. Though not everyone who volunteers at Project Genesis is a lawyer, we definitely feel that it is an asset to be able to have the critical thinking and communication skills that having legal training provides.
Another amazing part of Project Genesis is it offers people the opportunity to become involved and sit on various committees where they can work together with community organizers to counteract the causes of some of the problems they face. For example, if someone is deeply affected by poverty, they can join an anti-poverty committee and brainstorm ideas and participate in events such as walks and petitions to try and implement changes. At Project Genesis, everyones ideas count and everyone is treated with respect, no matter who they are.
Project Genesis has given a lot to us.
This volunteer experience helped us learn many of the skills that we need at Spunt & Carin, such as being effective communicators, how to isolate issues and focus on which facts are really important, how to stand up for causes you really believe in, how to deal with extremely sensitive situations, and most importantly empathy. As family lawyers in Montreal, we have to empathize with our client’s situations while simultaneously coming up with the best strategy to meet their needs.