Fulfilling a dream; giving back to Canada

Audace landed in Canada as a refugee from Burundi, a very small country in East Africa close to Rwanda, with his wife and infant daughter, four years ago.

One year after coming to Canada, he and his wife had a second child, a son. And in August 2019, Audace started working for the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). When the pandemic began, Audace was working as an executive assistant and was able to do his job from home. When the Agency put out a call, asking for employees to volunteer to answer phone calls from Canadians applying for the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), Audace jumped at the opportunity.

“When the pandemic started, I wanted to do something. I have no medical training for the hospitals, so when I saw the opportunity to help Canadians with this benefit, I was motivated to volunteer,” says Audace. “I came to Canada as a refugee when I couldn’t be in my country any longer. I have always dreamed of giving back to Canada, which has been so good to me and my family.”

On top of his regular job, Audace takes calls four hours a day, choosing his shifts based on what is going on in his home each day. He and his wife, a student taking online classes, share caring for their two young children and all of the household duties.

This isn’t the first time Audace has gone through a lockdown, and he emphasizes with Canadians who may never have thought they would go through something like this. He also comes to this with a very different perspective, as the experience he had in Burundi was not the same.

“When we were first told to stay home in March, the images I had in my head were of bullets flying,” says Audace. “When we did this before, there were bullets flying in the streets. Staying home like this is something my wife and I have experienced before, but this time we don’t expect anyone to knock on our door, holding a gun.”

Audace is impressed both with how Canadians are interacting with him on the phone, and with how the Agency has rolled out these benefits in such record time.

“I’ve been really astounded with the attitude of the people who are calling – I would say that 90 per cent of them are so positive. Canadians are so kind and encouraging of the Agency, understanding that we are working in a stressful situation. So many people thank me, even when they’re facing so much financial stress,” he says.

“And the Agency too – it’s just amazing… when I started taking calls – three days later money started showing up in people’s banks. And in some cases people got two payments – and I was so happy – they were calling back and asking how they could return the money, saying they couldn’t take two payments when there were so many people needing help. I’ve appreciated everyone so much – so many people telling me that it was so easy to apply for the CERB and they couldn’t believe how easy and good the whole process was. I even had people calling and asking if it was a scam because the money showed up so fast,” he laughs.

Audace will forever be grateful for the chance the CRA has given him to give back to Canada.

This country gave me what no one else could – a second home,” he says. “I will never forget that.”

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