In Newfoundland, perhaps more so than in the rest of the country, there is a tradition of looking out and caring for your neighbours. When the 211 helpline launched in the province in October, that tradition was taken to heart. The information navigation service made a conscious effort to hire local Service Navigators to answer calls for help from their neighbours.
COVID-19 has made life more difficult for many across Newfoundland and Labrador as the province works to stop the spread of COVID-19. By dialing three numbers, residents in need of support can connect to a live agent like Deborah Doherty.
Doherty lives in Conception Bay South and works as a 211 Service Navigator, providing callers with information about social services, community and government programs and a compassionate ear.
“Newfoundlanders have a very unique way to deal with trying times as you probably saw during ‘Snowmegeddon’ at the beginning of this year. I wanted to be a part of that again, so I moved home,” said Doherty who moved back to Newfoundland in 2019. Before the move, she had built a 20-year career helping families access special childcare services in Brampton, Ontario. Her credentials include certifications in data management and community resource navigation, and she has a diploma in early childhood education.
While Doherty is a highly qualified and distinguished information and referral specialist, it’s her compassion and humanity that makes her a truly outstanding 211 Service Navigator.
“Times are so difficult right now, and if you’re a caregiver for someone and fairly isolated, sometimes it just helps to have someone to talk to [and] run through things in your mind,” said Doherty, adding that while her main purpose is to help find services, sometimes lending an ear can be all that callers need. “I got a call yesterday from a woman who was taking care of her 92-year-old-mother. She didn’t really want anything, but she was just so overwhelmed that she just wanted to go through the plans that she had laid out for her mother’s care with somebody. She just needed to talk about it, and she was so thankful just to have someone listen.”
211 offers service 24 hours a day in more than 150 languages. 211 can help callers navigate the various COVID-19 relief programs, connect with mental health services, or find their next meal. While demand for the service increased in other parts of the country when the pandemic hit, the service is not specific to COVID-19. 211 maintains a database of thousands of government programs, community and social services, and other information to help people with all of life’s challenges.
“Our goal here at 211 is to empower people. To help them take the next step and, when they can’t, we advocate for them a little bit, but we also help them to advocate for themselves,” said Doherty. “Let’s face it, so many government services can be a maze. I can’t imagine being a new immigrant or an elderly person trying to navigate those services alone. For so many reasons, I’m glad 211 is available now. It really is more than a slogan – help does start here.”
If you or someone you know is struggling right now, help is just three digits away. Call 2-1-1 today.