Chabad-led disability think tank receives federal grant

Liberal MP Anthony Housefather, back centre, tours the Friendship Circle’s facilities in Montreal on Feb. 3.

The Friendship Circle – a Chabad program that offers social, recreational and vocational activities for children and young adults with special needs on a non-sectarian basis – has received at $435,647 federal grant.

Liberal MP Anthony Housefather visited the Friendship Circle’s centre in the Côte-des-Neiges neighbourhood of Montreal on Feb. 3, to make the announcement. The funds are from the Canada Service Corps program.

The money will be used for “a revolutionary project to break down barriers and empower youth with and without disabilities as leaders of inclusion.” A hallmark of the Friendship Circle is its cadre of student volunteers who act as buddies to disabled youngsters.

The Friendship Circle is very close to my heart.
– Hannah Cons

With this new support, the Friendship Circle will bring together 60 youth aged 15 to 30, half of whom identify as having a disability and half of whom do not, to form the Canadian Diversity & Inclusion Think Tank. It will be tasked with studying the issue and coming up with practical ways of giving meaning to those words.

The project will launch with a weekend workshop in Ste-Agathe-des-Monts, Que., where the young people will create a framework for working together on identifying activities that most effectively put the principle of inclusion into action.

Finally, they will turn their findings into an inspirational video presentation, which will be screened in Montreal next spring.


“The Friendship Circle is very close to my heart,” said think tank participant Hannah Cons. “I have been volunteering here for two years now and cannot wait to start this exciting project. I believe this will change our community for the better.”

“I know the Friendship Circle’s impact and reach will be improved with this extra funding from the federal government,” stated Housefather. “I look forward to helping them spread their important message of inclusion for persons with disabilities and for all Canadians.”

The Friendship Circle’s director of development, Batya Willmott, added that, “We are very excited to know that we will be receiving this funding from the Canadian government to empower youth to help break down barriers to inclusion and build a culture of service among young Canadians. I thank Anthony and his staff for working so closely with us on this and many other files.”

Within each person is a soul and that soul is equal and worthy of boundless love.
– Sima Paris

Sima Paris, who founded of the Friendship Circle of Montreal with her husband Rabbi Yossi Paris, said the philosophy is that, “within each person is a soul and that soul is equal and worthy of boundless love. With this inspiration, the lives of the families we serve are enhanced while young volunteers reap the rewards of selfless giving.”

The Canada Service Corps, a national youth service program, was initiated last year with $105 million in funds. Its goal is to encourage young Canadians to get involved in service to their communities, as well as provide them with new opportunities for volunteer work. Their participation in the development of Service Corps projects is a key feature.