In 1994, at the age of 23, Joseph fled the civil war in Bosnia and found himself in London. He arrived to the Forest City unable to speak English, with only $40 and two suitcases to his name. Alone and with no family or friends, Joseph took refuge in the reception house of the Cross Cultural Learner Centre (CCLC), a non-profit organization that provides settlement services fornewcomers to London. Over time, he found a place to live and a job. "The first year was really, really hard,” but through the support and strength of the counsellors and volunteers at the CCLC, Joseph was able to make London his home.
Today, Joseph is happy to have the opportunity to give back to London by providing others with the support that made him feel safe and welcome. He works as a settlement counsellor at the CCLC, where he assists refugees and immigrants to adapt and integrate into the city. "I know how it feels to be a newcomer, and so I share my experiences." Those who know Joseph speak of his openness, his warm smile, and contagious positivity. He has a genuine interest in helping others and supporting them through difficult struggles.
Dr. Saadia Hameed
Saadia first came to Canada as an internationally trained doctor from Pakistan, and began the long and challenging process of accrediting her foreign qualifications. She arrived in London in 2004, where she is currently a family physician at St. Joseph’s Family Medical Centre and an Assistant Professor at the Department of Family Medicine of the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at Western University.
An educator, a health-care provider, and a mother, Saadia is committed to community engagement. Along with her colleagues, she participates in a community initiative that provides mentorship to new Canadian doctors. She also volunteers her time at the London Islamic School where she delivers a sexual education program to young girls. Saadia supports the London Food Bank by volunteering for food drives as well as participating in anti-poverty efforts run by UNICEF.
A leader in her community, Saadia often provides counselling to Muslim youth in London on bridging the generational gap with their newcomer parents. “There is richness in heritage and success in integration,” hence Saadia’s insistence on promoting communication between newcomers and established Londoners.
Saadia’s openness is not only evidenced by her community involvement, but also by her willingness to share her experience with others. When describing what makes Saadia a proud Londoner, she boasts about “the sedate but versatile elegance of the city, the humble yet great academic prowess of its professionals,” but most of all, “the love and open-heartedness of its people.”
Miriam decided to immigrate to London from Mexico, after first visiting her sister. She immediately fell in love with the city and its people. Coming from a business-oriented family, Miriam knew early on that she wanted to start her own business. With her passion for style and beauty and her management experience working in real estate development in Mexico City, Miriam opened El Encanto Salon and Spa in 2011. El Encanto has found a niche specializing in Mayan treatments, and adds a unique flavour to the city’s local beauty services sector. A local business leader who is not afraid to follow her dreams, Miriam did not shy away from taking on a new initiative when she decided to publish her own style and beauty magazine. Taking cues from the observations of her clients, Miriam saw a gap in local publishing and decided to step in. The magazine, El Encanto, is available for free and helps promote a wide range of local businesses.
In addition to running two successful enterprises, Miriam devotes much of her time to enriching London’s cultural scene and volunteering with local organizations. She is a cofounder of Fiesta London, an annual Mexican festival held in Covent Garden Market with the aim of promoting Mexican culture beyond food, through art, music, and dance. Making culture accessible is important to Miriam. That is why she heads a local dance troupe, the Taste of Mexico Folklore, which stages free performances at local non-profit organizations such as Museum London and various senior homes.
A staunch supporter of local economic development, Miriam’s engagement does not end there. She supports aspiring young professionals by providing apprenticeship opportunities to Fanshawe College students. She also supports the Hutton House by providing work opportunities to persons with disabilities.
Although Miriam’s contributions to London are many, her passion for culture and entrepreneurial spirit stand out. She is a truly inspirational Londoner and an example for local aspiring business owners.
Yam was born and raised in a remote village on the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains of central Nepal with his parents and 7 siblings. At the age of 12, he headed to a busy Nepalese tourist area, to improve his chances of finding work to support his family. That is where he first learned English, by interacting with Western tourists and working in restaurants. He would eventually apprentice as a chef in several restaurants, exposing himself to various international cuisines.
Yam came to Canada to join his wife and newly born daughter in 2001. They settled in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, where his wife worked as a midwife for a year before moving to London. Having always worked in the food services industry, the idea of starting his own catering business came naturally. The business has since grown to become Momos at the Market, a booth at the Western Fair Farmers’ & Artisans’ Market where Yam and his team serve Londoners homemade Nepalese food.
In addition to contributing to the incredible community of vendors and entrepreneurs at the Market, Yam is a proud and engaged Londoner. He volunteers with Growing Chefs, the children’s food initiative where London chefs work with educators to teach children the value of growing and eating healthy food. He also is an active volunteer at Lord Roberts French Immersion School, where his two children go to school.
Cross-cultural exchanges are a regular part of Yam’s life. His family has served as hosts to a newcomer family from Iraq by volunteering with the Community Connections program at the Cross Cultural Learner Centre. He has also hosted two exchange students from Japan and will soon be welcoming a young student from France, where his daughter will be traveling as part of a language exchange program.
When asked what makes London his home, Yam’s voice fills with pride: “London is a great place to raise my family, grow my business, and connect with diverse people. I love living in our century-old home in Old South and at the same time being a part of London’s vibrant community of Old East.”
Émilie first came to Canada in 1996 as an international student after obtaining a scholarship to study business administration at the University of Quebec. The next year, a civil war broke out in the Central African Republic, her country of origin, and she was unable to return. Her story then turned into a journey of courage in the face of struggle. After successfully completing her degree, with no family in Canada, Émilie applied for refugee status. She continued her postsecondary studies in corporate finance, hoping to improve her chances of finding a job. Despite her two new degrees and a background in management consulting from her native country, Émilie was unable to find a job due to her lack of Canadian experience.
She then made the life-changing decision of moving to London with her four children in 2004. Émilie knew she wanted to live in Ontario so that her children could be bilingual, but she settled on London after a Google search resulted in the picturesque image of the Market Tower overlooking the heart of the city. “I remember that summer day in July when I arrived, my children and I went out to explore downtown London, and they found their way to a gaming arcade. As they were playing and laughing, I knew I was going to be okay.” Émilie began volunteering with the Comité des Femmes de London, a local group of women who tried to create services for francophone women in the city. Her relentless commitment and hard work as a volunteer, and later a Community Development Officer, were so impressive that they landed her the role of Executive Director of the Carrefour des femmes du Sud-Ouest de l’Ontario (CFSOO), a non-profit organization dedicated to helping women overcome abuse and violence.
Those who have met Émilie would agree; she is a remarkable woman with a passion for helping others. She goes above and beyond her duties at CFSOO and is a staunch defender of women’s rights in the region. Her personal mantra of “transforming obstacles into opportunities” has not only served her well but inspired others to do the same. Women who come to the CFSOO all meet Émilie and know that they can find a friend in her.
Émilie has received numerous recognitions for her achievements. Most recently, she was awarded the Attorney General’s Victim Services Award of Distinction for her outstanding contributions. She is proud to represent London everywhere she goes, “the city belongs to me, and I belong to the city.”
Robert moved to London from the United Kingdom in 1967. As a former international student at Western University and Fanshawe College, Robert had great opportunities to learn, participate and grow in Canada’s London.
Whether it is planting trees at the Southwest Optimist Park or volunteering for the London Scouts, community involvement has been a regular part of Robert’s life. He is currently President of Western’s Alumni Association representing more than 270,000 alumni worldwide. Robert played a key role in initiating the Young Leaders of Tomorrow program at the United Way of London-Middlesex, which helps foster leadership skills and community service values among youth. He also helps coordinate the vastly popular Student2Business (S2B) Networking event to build bridges between Fanshawe/Western students and local business professionals.
Local heritage is very important to Robert, and he and his wife live in one of London’s oldest houses. His passion for heritage conservation led to his annual involvement in the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario’s Annual Geranium Walk, a tour of London’s historical buildings.
When Robert decided to settle in London, it was important for him that he establish “new roots.” He believes that this requires commitment as well as the willingness to interact with people beyond one’s community. He also thinks it is important to engage with others for the sake of discovery. Robert loves London for its “wonderful growing diversity of people, its depth of educational and career opportunities and that sense of welcome that the city has whenever you return from afar.”
Since arriving in London in 1998, with little more than ambition and dreams of a brighter future, TG was eager to start new life in a new home, after having escaped war in Ethiopia.
She began working at a coffee shop, then a parking lot; she attended classes to improve her English and even learned a new trade. However, like her mother and grandmother before her, TG dreamt of opening a restaurant. Her passion for cooking began at a very early age, when she would roam around her mother’s restaurant, just outside of Addis Ababa.
Far away from home and with no family or friends, Ethiopian cuisine was a way for TG to feel close to her heritage. Soon enough, she would share that heritage with the rest of London by opening TG’s Addis Ababa in central London. The restaurant has been open for over ten years and is a mainstay of London’s culinary scene.
As a proud small business owner, TG is committed to supporting community initiatives and events. Her restaurant has been a regular participant in the Taste for Life campaign to support the Regional HIV/AIDS Connection. She also generously supports the efforts of local student organizers at Brescia University College during their annual Multicultural Show, as well as the London Black History Coordinating Committee.
Today, TG is proud to call London her home, “I chose to start my business in London, but more importantly, I chose to start my family here. It is a safe and welcoming community, and there is nowhere else I would rather build a future.”
Born in India, Dev first lived in Montreal when he arrived in Canada. He came to London in 1980 to pursue his studies in engineering and medical sciences at Western University, after which he stayed as a faculty member, before embarking on an illustrious career as an executive management consulting professional. Dev is the founder and Chairman of the SAINA Group of Companies, an international business development and strategic advisory services firm.
Throughout his life, Dev has been passionate about community service. He has brought his enthusiastic and innovative approach to various social and cultural initiatives, such as IndiaFest, an annual celebration of Indian culture in London, featuring local artists, performers, and vendors. He is an active volunteer with the London-Middlesex Local Immigration Partnership, working to support community efforts to make London a more inclusive and welcoming society. Dev is currently the Chair of the Ontario Trillium Foundation, for which he has been volunteering since 2005. He also serves on the boards of several organizations, including the Family Math Canada Foundation, and Kala Manjari.
Dev’s commitment to community service extends abroad. He is a member of the Governing Body of Temple City Institute of Technology and Engineering, an international engineering college based in India.
A volunteer, an innovator, an educator, an entrepreneur, and father, Dev is proud to be a Londoner. “London is a city with incredible spirit, ambition and vibrancy. It places high value on community, blending rural and urban flavours with its own particular style.”
Xiaoxiao first came to Canada from China to complete her Master’s in Humanities at Laurentian University in Sudbury. She moved to London in 2006, where she is currently a full-time PhD student in Education at Western University. Immigrating to a new country is never easy, but for Xiaoxiao, London has become her new home, a place where she feels that she truly belongs.
As an educator, a volunteer, and a mother, Xiaoxiao is strongly committed to the idea of building an inclusive and welcoming London. As a result, she has been volunteering at schools, community events and festivals, and local community organizations. In her spare time, she enjoys organizing workshops aimed at helping newcomers with cultural communication. She also regularly provides help with literacy and math programs at University Heights, where she has been volunteering for seven years.
Xiaoxiao is also involved with the Western Graduate Review, a monthly talk show that discusses graduate student research. Her passion for education and community is evident in her commitment to various initiatives. In addition to volunteering with the PhD mentorship program at the Western’s Faculty of Education, Xiaoxiao is the co-founder of the annual Robert McMillan Graduate Research in Education Symposium.
With all her community engagement, Xiaoxiao somehow finds the time to enjoy all the city has to offer with her young family of four. “I love for its friendly people, for its inclusive and welcoming social and cultural environment, and last but not least for its many opportunities to live a fulfilling professional and personal life.”