Health and wellness

May 9, 2024

Helping newcomers feel at home in New Brunswick

Nathan standing inside of his Shoppers Drug Mart store with shelves behind him in the background.
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For Nathan Coffill, Associate-Owner of two Shoppers Drug Mart® locations in New Brunswick, giving back to the local community is both a passion and a privilege. For the past seven years Nathan and his teams have been working with their local YMCA and Skills Launch New Brunswick to better support newcomers in their Saint John community.     

“I saw an opportunity about seven or eight years ago, to help make life for newcomers easier. We have a large community of immigrants here – from Syria, Ukraine, Somalia - most of whom arrive without speaking any English, and we could see that navigating the healthcare system was a challenge,” says Nathan. “We knew we could do something to make things easier.”   

This included making translators available in-store during peak times, Monday to Friday to support patients and customers in getting the care and services they needed. From there, Nathan’s team set up glucose testing, flu and COVID-19 clinics at the local YMCA with translators on-site to facilitate, and arranged specialized counselling on how to manage glucose levels during Ramadan.  

In addition, Nathan has partnered with Skills Launch New Brunswick, a program that supports both young and adult newcomers in their process to learn, explore, and succeed in New Brunswick through occupational orientations, workplace essential skills, language training, and supportive work placements. Nathan has employed multiple newcomers via Skills Launch, some of whom have taken on full-time roles in the store and have become leaders in their community.  

One of Nathan’s current team members, Lava Telo, moved to Canada in 2016 and joined the team in 2023 as part of the Skills Launch program and now works as a pharmacy assistant and is training to be a pharmacy technician. 

“I am originally from Syria, but I grew up in Turkey because of what was going on in Syria. I moved here in 2016 and at first it was hard. Everything was hard,” remembers Lava. “The language, the weather, not knowing the people, the rules, but we had many people help and support us. We made it.”  

Since joining the team at Shoppers Drug Mart, Lava has been able to help other newcomers feel comfortable in the store and the wider community. “I speak three languages, and that has helped me build relationships. Knowing I can support my co-workers with translation, and support people who are new to the community has helped me a lot too,” says Lava. “I was in the same position a few years ago, so I can understand what they are going through.” 

Nathan and his team are an integral part of their community, and they continue to play a vital role in helping Canadians and newcomers live life well.  

“Looking back, I don’t think I could have imagined what the work we were doing would amount to,” Nathan admits. “I have seen firsthand what giving someone an opportunity has done for them - it has changed their future. It’s a real privilege to be able to support others who may not have the same opportunities that we do, and I’m proud to give back to my community every day – it is a commitment we should all make." 

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