Folu Oloyede always dreamed of visiting Canada.
He now lives here and is an early childhood education assistant at Maven Lane in Vernon.
Oloyede came to the North Okanagan through the Northern and Rural Immigration Pilot program.
When his sister invited him to Lethbridge to meet her new nephew, it was an easy decision for the Nigerian to make. What Folu didn't imagine was how quickly his life would change.
He booked a return flight and told his family he would see them in a few months.
More than three years passed before he finally saw them again and they were reunited in Canada.
“It’s a total coincidence that I’m here,” says Folu. “The plan was to meet my nephew, spend a few months in Canada and return home to my four-year-old son and my wife.”
His return flight was scheduled for April 2020. But on March 11, the World Health Organization declared the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Flights were cancelled, borders closed.
“I was in jail and all I had was a visitor's permit. I couldn’t work and I couldn’t bear not being with my family,” says Folu.
Luckily, he was able to stay with his sister during the lockdown.
Until June, travelers stranded in Canada could apply for a closed work permit without having to leave the country.
Folu went online and soon found a Nigerian family in Fort McMurray looking for someone to watch their two-year-old son and put their seven-year-old son through online school. As a high school biology and chemistry teacher, Folu fit in perfectly.
“I was commuting between Lethbridge and Fort McMurray for about a year, and then my sister's husband got a job at the university in Kelowna,” says Folu.
He applied to the then-new RNIP immigration pathway for permanent residency for skilled professionals. North Okanagan is one of 11 regions in Canada to participate.
In September 2021 he connected with Maven Lane.
“I thought it would just be another work permit. I had no idea that the program would be a fast track to permanent residency,” says Folu. “I thought it would be another four years before I could bring my family to Canada.”
Then, on December 6, 2022, almost three years after being stranded in Canada, he became a permanent resident. Four days later, his wife and son arrived in Vancouver.
“When my wife and son came here, my whole outlook on life changed. I felt whole again,” he says.
Folu says he found his calling at Maven Lane.
“I found my niche in being a part of children’s development, molding and molding them, and being a big part of their everyday lives. This is not something I do to survive, it is my purpose,” says Folu. “It’s so rewarding when you see the light on their faces and they come and give you a hug first thing in the morning. I look forward to seeing them every day.”