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Newcomer Stories

The best way to learn about Oxford County is to hear it from newcomers themselves!

Listening & reading to the stories of newcomers who moved to Oxford County is the best way to find out what living in our community is truly like! We're proud to be a region with diversity and look forward to having you become part of our growing family here!

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.”

Shahab Shafai first came to Canada from Iran in 1976, arriving in Winnipeg, Manitoba. There he lived and studied for 11 years completing high school, and bachelors and masters degrees in engineering.

After a very short stint in Terrace Bay, Ontario late in 1987, he moved to the Kitchener-Waterloo area where he would live and work for the next 16 years.

Shahab came to Oxford County in 2004, and today is the Manager of Wastewater Services in Public Works for Oxford County. He has found life in Oxford to be a perfect pace after a busy day at work:

”I like the calm and quietness and shorter line ups and much smaller traffic jams. I love the country roads all around us which I take full advantage of on a daily basis to drive on and enjoy the beautiful farming scenery.”

Another thing Shahab enjoys about living in Oxford is the climate:

”When I first moved to Winnipeg, getting used to - 40 degree Celsius cold and 8 months of winter was certainly difficult. Winters in Southern Ontario are much more like the climate I was born and spent my early years in. Compared to Manitoba, winters in Oxford County are more like spring.”

While Shahab likes the smaller size of communities in Oxford, he also appreciates the County’s central location, noting that the GTA is only an hour and a half away:

”Being so close to larger centers such as Kitchener-Waterloo, Guelph, London, Hamilton, Burlington, and Toronto has given me the opportunity to enjoy attending professional sports matches such as Canadian football, hockey, basketball, baseball, and Indy and Le Mans car racing.”

In Oxford, Shahab has found a vibrant and welcoming community as well as a variety of activities such as tennis, volleyball, and Toastmasters in which to participate. He has established himself as part of the community and has built a large circle of local friends. In fact, it’s the people that he thinks are Oxford’s greatest strength:

”I love the people in Oxford County, they are one of the most hard working people I have met in Canada in the last 35 years.”

Ifhan Hudda first came to Canada as a child in 1975 when his family immigrated from Uganda, East Africa to Niagara Falls, Ontario. Since growing up in Niagara, Ifhan has lived in London, the GTA and Toronto, but it was in Woodstock where he and his own young family have chosen to settle. Ifhan is currently the General Manager of the Quality Hotel and Suites in Woodstock.

“This is home. We know a lot of people. We are part of a lot of associations, so everyone is aware of who I am and who my family is.”

Becoming a member of the local Rotary club gave Ifhan the opportunity to immediately get to know people and build a social and business network in the community. He currently serves as Executive Director for the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce. Ifhan describes Oxford's business environment as cooperative and supportive:

“We all work together. The first community I’ve been in where nobody is working against each other. We all work together. We always want to make sure we’re achieving the same objectives.”

The Huddas also love the family-friendly quality of Oxford.

“It is a great county to bring up your family. In a small town everybody gets along and assists each other. A great place to bring up a family.”

In their spare time Ifhan and his family enjoy all of the benefits of living in a smaller community in Southern Ontario. He enjoys golf and making renovations on his home and backyard.  The Huddas particularly appreciate the beautiful natural surroundings and camping opportunities in and around Oxford.

“My family loves to go camping. My kids are 14, 11, 10 and 7. About 6 years ago we decided to try Pittock Conservation Park campgrounds.We went and had a fantastic time. The kids have a lot of activities to do there. And it is close to home in case we forget something or it rains.”

Asked what he loves about Oxford, Ifhan replies;

“It's the people. I live in Woodstock. The motto is 'friendly city.' When I came to the City and County people were very friendly and welcoming.”

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