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Miracle at McGill: Meet Genevieve

Wednesday, 6 February, 2019 - 9:35 am

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Autumn at McGill. It was a windy day on campus. Students pulled up jacket lapels as they sloshed through piles of multicoloured leaves. 

In the warm office of McGill's internship field coordinator, Genevieve Malouin sat nervously. Hoping against hope that she would be sent to work at Chabad Lifeline.

The coordinator looked at her file. "I'm sorry, Genevieve, but we selected someone else for Chabad Lifeline's internship."

One week earlier

The McGill career fair. Close to 50 tables set up. Students milling about, holding steaming mugs of coffee. 

Chabad Lifeline's Clinical Director Karen Bresinger and Addictions Counsellor Jason Stein were sitting behind their table when a young student approached excitedly.

"I can't believe it," she gushed. "I just sent in my internship request and asked to be sent to Chabad Lifeline!"

Karen and Jason were delighted. "We chatted for a good ten minutes," Karen recalled. "She asked about our services and our internship, and we got to know her better. She was exactly the kind of intern we were looking for."

Genevieve was thrilled. As a second year student, she hadn't planned on visiting the career fair. But she was excited to make a connection with the place she wanted to work. Was it coincidence that she had bumped into the staff of the very place she wanted to work just days before they would select their intern, or was it fate?

From Luxembourg to Quebec

Genevieve Malouin is originally from Luxembourg, a small country located between France, Germany, and Belgium. When she was 16, her family moved to Montreal. "I wanted to go back," she admitted. "But over the years I slowly started to realize that maybe Luxembourg isn't the place for me, and I've made more of a home in Montreal."

Bill 101, which states that if neither of your parents had gone to an English speaking school in Canada, you are obliged to go to a French speaking school, meant that Genevieve had to attend a French school despite the fact that English was her first language. At first it was difficult, but then she discovered others who were in the same boat, and joined an English-speaking social circle. 


After graduating High School, she applied to the correctional intervention program at John Abbott. It took two tries but she was eventually accepted into the program, which included an internship at a halfway house working with ex-convicts. "Since I could remember I was always interested in working with people, in helping people," Genevieve said. "I knew that that was what I wanted to do, working in the judicial system. That's my niche."

Selecting Chabad Lifeline

Genevieve wanted to get a degree she could use in the judicial system, and joined Concordia's Human Relations program. But the unstructured style of study wasn't a fit for her, particularly coming from correctional intervention. 

After a couple of months, Genevieve decided to apply for McGill's Social Work program. "I was told how hard it was to get into, and people advised me to set the expectations lower but I decided to try. I sent in everything they needed, telling myself that if I don't get in, I'll just finish my degree in Human Relations."

To her delight, she was accepted immediately, and two years later, sat down with her McGill internship field coordinator. "I had found out that Chabad Lifeline was an option," she recalled. "I know a few people who came to Chabad Lifeline, and they told me how great it was. I've always been interested in addictions, and people from the prison system often are dealing with addiction. If I want to better be able to help them, I need to have a better understanding of what addiction is. I saw this as an opportunity to learn about the field."

During the interview, Genevieve made clear her desire to work at Chabad Lifeline. Then a few days later, she met Karen and Jason after deciding on a whim to drop by the career fair. "I told them excitedly that I had put them down as my first choice for an internship and they told me they hoped to see me there. I took a few pamphlets from the booth that I still have, and I left."

It's always worth asking

When Genevieve found out she would be placed in another organization, she was disappointed.

But she wondered why it didn't work out with Chabad Lifeline. "I told her about how I had spoken to them at the McGill career fair, and I was really excited and they also seemed really excited to meet me."

The field coordinator looked up. "Oh, that was you they were speaking about!" 

Turns out, Chabad Lifeline had mentioned a student they had met and wanted as their intern, but they had forgotten to take her name.

Everything fell into place. The field coordinator decided that Genevieve and Chabad Lifeline were meant to be, and moved things around to ensure Genevieve was placed at Chabad Lifeline.

Internship work

At Chabad Lifeline, Genevieve attends Tuesday's open speaker's meeting at noon, and co-facilitates a group for families. She also sits in on intakes, and does psycho-social work with clients. In addition, she leads school presentations together with Chabad Lifeline's Youth Counsellors.

Her experience at Chabad Lifeline so far has changed her perspective on addiction. "I plan on eventually getting a Master's in Social Work, and I'd like to go for a certificate specific to addiction," she said. "I didn't think I would before I started my internship here, but I'm learning so much about the field and I find it fascinating. Especially here at Chabad Lifeline where we help the families of the addict, which has been a real eye opener for me and such a great experience. Karen is my supervisor and she is the Family Counsellor. She is amazing.

"The family aspect sets Chabad Lifeline apart. From what I see and hear, not all organizations see addiction as a family issue. They usually see it on an individual level and I think Chabad Lifeline is unique in the sense that they get everyone involved, using a "how can we all help" approach. It's more of a community change."


Comments on: Miracle at McGill: Meet Genevieve

Rena Entus wrote...

Congratulations on being such a strong woman and making the moves for yourself. You are a role model for those with whom you will be working.

We at dgkquebec look for women like you. Look for us!