Anastasia Georgiou sits at a table at the back of the Parc-Extension library, helping a man fill out paperwork needed to sell his car.
It's a familiar situation at the Bureau d'Information Parc-Extension (BIPE), a new multilingual resource that connects residents of the neighbourhood to services available to them.
"Almost every day, we have to help clients fill out forms, even call and make appointments for them," says Georgiou, a longtime Park Ex resident and a counsellor at BIPE.
For newcomers in Park Ex, who are still learning French and navigating their way through the Quebec system, it's also a haven where they know they can get information on issues including housing, jobs and schools — in whichever language they speak.
These days, Georgiou says, many of the questions are about access to legal aid, health care or the immigration process.
The women at BIPE speak several languages, which comes in handy as they work with their neighbours in need of help.
Georgiou, who speaks Greek and Spanish on top of English and French, says she's even picked up bits and pieces of new languages through her work — like teeka, which means vaccine in Punjabi.
"There are a lot of community organizations in Parc-Extension, but a lot of people don't know about these resources," says Qurat Ul-Ain, administrative assistant at the Park Extension Roundtable, which founded BIPE.
BIPE started as a directory, but became an in-person, multilingual service after the group went door-to-door last year in an effort to spread information about the COVID-19 vaccine.
"When you spoke in the same language, people automatically opened up. They were more willing to share their problems. They were willing to get information," she said.
That's why it's vital that the counsellors working at BIPE are able to speak with residents in a language that they are comfortable with, says Ul-Ain.
Shahista Hussein, a counsellor at BIPE, speaks seven languages — Swahili, Kutchi, English, Gujarati, Sindhi, Bengali and Punjabi.
And she's now learning sign language, too.
Hussein says this kind of service was needed for years.