St. James Town Storeys
St. James Town Storeys
Coping with COVID in St. James Town part 3

Episode 3

Coping with COVID in St. James Town part 3

An extraordinary woman with an extensive social network in her community helps to channel the care and compassion that St. James Town residents have for each other during the pandemic.

Interested in reading the transcript of the interview? Please click the web link “Transcript Episode 3” or download the pdf file using this link “Transcript Episode 3


In this week’s episode, we speak with Amal Kanafani, who settled in St. James Town as a Syrian refugee in 2013. In 2015, she created this non-profit organization called the Auntie Amal Community Centre, which works to better the lives of community members. It has been recognized by both federal and city government for its work.

This Toronto Star article describes the powerful impact that Amal’s non-profit organization has in the life of one St. James Town resident, just in time for Christmas.

Forani, Jonathan. 2016. “Power of One.” Toronto Star 24 December.

In this lovely video made in August 2019, a young woman talks about how she benefited from the Auntie Amal Community Centre, and about how she volunteers with the Centre. In our introduction to this week’s episode, we mention that the Auntie Amal Community Centre supplies furniture to newcomers, but it serves and benefits others as well.

Auntie Amal Community Centre Furniture Bank

In our chat, Amal talked about an initiative she is involved in to make non-medical masks that many people have begun to use during the pandemic to protect those around them. In this video Amal describes the initiative and invites viewers to support by donating any amount of money they feel that they can. 

The Auntie Amal Community Centre welcomes donations. You can contact her at: or 647-853-8833

Auntie Amal Community Centre Initiative for Homemade Masks

Food insecurity and food banks are a topic in this Episode. Information about the food bank that we mentioned is available here, and it is made possible through a collaboration by The New Common, St. James Town Community Corner, and Our Lady of Lourdes Church.

The Corner @ 200 Wellesley St East Food Bank Poster

photo of foodbank poster

In the interview we asked Amal whether the neighbours she knows have been able to benefit from government programs such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). Information about the CERB and other government programs of income support during the pandemic can be found here in the website of Councillor Kristen Wong-Tam. When we spoke to Amal in mid-April, she observed that not everyone was aware of such programs because some do not have internet at home.

Lastly, Amal talked about the difficulties faced by recently arrived newcomers. She described the very difficult situation of a woman and her children who arrived in Toronto around the time that the COVID-19 pandemic was declared. Challenges for newcomers to Canada during the pandemic are the focus of this CBC news article. Though it focuses on British Colombia, many of the same issues likely apply here in Ontario as well.

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