Maria Odumodu's Story
Nigerian-born Maria Odumodu and her husband Joe were living in London, England where they had both attended school, when she heard former Prime Minister Pearson’s “Four Faces of Peace
" Nobel Prize acceptance speech. She knew that if the country represented by this man was anything like the ideals outlined in his speech, then Canada would be the ideal place for the couple and their future family.
In 1971 Joe was able to find a job in Woodstock, Ontario before even leaving Britain. Maria would follow him one month later, and they have never left.
When she first arrived, the most striking thing for Maria at first was the size of the town:
"It was so small. Living and working in London it would take an hour to get to work. Coming here, everything is right there. You get used to it though and Woodstock is very centrally located."
Maria and Joe opened their own pharmacy in 1976, which they still run as the Dispensary Pharmasave Woodstock Inc
.. While she never got a job in her profession because of lack of Canadian experience, she has taken advantage of the proximity to the University of Western Ontario in London, to earn two degrees. Maria is currently writing her PhD dissertation in Public Policy and Administration.
Before long, the couple's family had grown and they found that Oxford was a peaceful and safe place to bring up their children. It also provided activities like soccer, baseball, and ballet dancing, for the Odumodus to get involved in.
In Oxford they discovered a community of welcoming neighbors.
"Sundays after mass, we would go to Barbara’s house for breakfast, coffee and tea. This became a standing arrangement. One day when we were moving (to another house in Woodstock) she showed up without being asked saying ‘You guys have got enough to do.’ She took care of our child for the whole day. That was the kind of kindness that makes living here quite easy."
In the years since coming to Oxford, Maria has been exceptionally involved, contributing a great deal to her community. She has been President of the Woodstock Public Library and Art Gallery, the Oxford Liberal Federal Association, the Diocese of London Catholic Women’s League, the Zonta Club of Woodstock, the Seniors' Drop in Centre, Parish Advisory Board St. Rita's Church, the Children's Aid Society of Oxford, Treasurer Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies , Area Director District IV Zonta International, Regent IODE G. R. Green Chapter, Special Events Chair-Fund Raising Cabinet, Community Complex, Board member the Y of Western Ontario, President, Friends of the Library, Co Chair Furniture and Fixtures Woodstock Public Library, and Y of Woodstock Renovation Fund President. She has been a leader in various fundraising activities, and volunteers her time to mentor young people.
Maria's advice for newcomers considering Oxford County:
"Do try the smaller cities. They are quite welcoming. They might not have everything you think you need, but there are other opportunities that are there. And when you try them you might be surprised. Come with an open mind. If you step out of your comfort zone to get involved, you will be welcomed."
Another thing she says to keep in mind is that;
"You get more 'house' for your money if you like space, do come here. In addition, our location on the 401, 403, 59 and highway 2 gives us a tremendous advantage for business location. In terms of the bedroom decision related to the quality of life, we have amenities to suit. For those interested in life long learning, you can make it to a university within 40 minutes to 1 hour. We want you to come here to grow, work and live."