#ImmigrationMatters in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Mark Saldanha’s mission is to reaffirm the dignity of Canadians experiencing homelessness by showing them friendship, respect and compassion.

Bringing love and kindness to the streets of Halifax

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Mark Saldanha

Mark Saldanha was 5 years old when he immigrated to Canada from India, by way of Kuwait, with his parents. He returned to India for visits often enough to know what extreme poverty looks like. But nothing he saw there over the years diminished his compassion for people living on the streets of Halifax.

“You don’t have to go to India to see people who are suffering”, says Mark, now in his early twenties and a recent Dalhousie University neuroscience graduate. “There are also people right here in Halifax”.

Mark’s perspective is that poverty is not necessarily just material. “One of the greatest human needs is having relationships and feeling loved”, he says. And he feels there are many people experiencing loneliness in Canada.

To address it, he founded Greater Love, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing food and companionship to Halifax residents coping with homelessness.

Greater Love got its start when Mark asked friends if they wanted to join him in chatting with homeless people on Spring Garden Road in the downtown area of Halifax.

“Mark Saldanha has a huge heart, and is always focusing on other people. He’s got this gentle smile, this gentle spirit that completely draws people in, and a massive heart to reach out and help.”

Bill Scollard, Director, Discipleship Formation Team, St. Benedict’s Parish

“It was really simple”, says Matt Campbell, a Greater Love member. “We just walked down the street approaching homeless individuals, offering muffins, giving them the time of day and talking with them for as long as they wanted to talk”.

As the idea caught on, more students wanted to participate. Eventually, Greater Love became an official Dalhousie University society with more than 100 members, and Mark registered it as a not-for-profit organization.

“Our goal is to show people that they’re loved, and build friendships and relationships with them”, he explains. “We get to know each other and share stories”.

Getting Greater Love off the ground wasn’t without challenges. A key one was defining where the organization fit among others tackling issues related to homelessness.

Early on, people pushed for Greater Love to help people get off the streets and find housing or work. But Mark discovered that while many organizations were already working on those angles, only Greater Love was focusing solely on showing these individuals that someone cared.

“We couldn’t find any other organization that was there simply to love them where they’re at”, he says. “Our main goal is friendship”.

Mark hopes to go to medical school, but first he’s taking a year off to grow Greater Love, opening chapters in other parts of Canada.

He’s already been recognized with numerous awards, including the Red Cross Power of Humanity Young Humanitarian Award and Dalhousie University’s Off Campus Award for elite service and volunteerism. He has been listed in My East Coast Experience’s Top 25 Immigrants in the Maritimes and included in its Fabulous Four under 40.

“The people we help thank us for treating them like human beings”, says Mark. “That’s what means the most to us”.

Immigration profile: Halifax, Nova Scotia (Census Metropolitan Area)

Quick facts:

  • Immigrants in Halifax represent almost 10% of the population.
  • The United Kingdom is the biggest source country of immigrants to Halifax, followed by the United States and China.
  • More than half (60%) of all immigrants who came to Halifax between 1980 and 2016 were economic immigrants, while almost a quarter were sponsored by family and 15% were refugees.

Did you know?

  • As of 2017, immigrants accounted for the vast majority of net population growth in Halifax.

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