The eighth annual I am London campaign showcases immigrants who provide essential services in London. Join us on the 8th of every month until December 2021 to read about our Faces of London.
As a young man living in a small town, nestled in the foothills of Northern China, Hongtao Bi (Ryan) worked with children in a kindergarten before he came to Canada in 2012. He quickly settled in London, where the peace, safety, tranquillity and slower pace of life made a refreshing change. In fact, even though London is the tenth largest city in Canada, he was surprised to find out that it much smaller than his hometown in China.
Ryan has worked in many roles – caring for children, as a recruitment talent agent, helping applicants to process their visa applications, as a driving instructor guiding newcomers to Canada and most recently, delivering food as an Uber Eats driver. A common theme runs through all his career choices – he loves taking care of people. In the past year, as a frontline worker during various lockdowns, he has focused on giving his Uber Eats clients the best possible experience. He worries if they are safe, if their food will stay warm, and encourages all frontline workers to “protect yourself first, so you can provide a better service to your customers.”
Ryan is training to be a HVAC (heating ventilation and air-conditioning) technician at Fanshawe College in Woodstock. As an Uber Eats driver his work hours are flexible, allowing him to work and study at the same time. Ryan is described by his teachers as motivated, supportive and remarkably resourceful in a city where he is a newcomer and a second language learner. “Canada is a place where your dreams come true,” he says, as he makes plans to launch his technical career and hopefully, one day soon, start his own family.
The pandemic has been a challenging experience in many ways, and he has felt especially sad that he was unable to fly back to China to see his parents and sister. Before the Spring Festival/Lunar New Year, Ryan realized that there were many people like himself who missed a family reunion, and with the guidance of his instructors at Fanshawe he created a Tiktok video Happy New Year greeting for Asian students. It was so well received that Fanshawe College shared it with their International Centre, who in turn shared it with their resources globally. “Every single person can influence the people around them. Keep moving in life and learning,” he advises.
Even though Ryan is proud that he has been able to help the London community by delivering food through the pandemic, he believes that the healthcare workers are the “real heroes”.
Taiwo Apampa, Business Manager, “Find ways to share your story, your talents and your gifts with others.”
Taiwo Apampa and her two young girls moved to London from Lagos, Nigeria in February 2020, when her husband enrolled in a one-year intensive MBA program at Ivey Business School. She left behind a flourishing career, extended family and a vibrant community, but her zest for travel and experiencing new things propelled her forward to an exciting new life. After her husband completed his program in March 2021, they decided to make London their permanent home.“Canada will give our children the very best opportunities that the world can offer,” says Taiwo.
They arrived in London just weeks before the pandemic hit, but Taiwo’s determination to find a community, work and pursue her art meant that they were soon able to integrate through the kids’ daycare, their church, her husband’s school community and the London Arts Council, among others. Taiwo quickly found work as a Business Manager in a London-based business providing safe and effective protective personal equipment (PPE) to frontline healthcare workers throughout Canada.
Taiwo is on the factory floor almost daily, “I successfully managed the transition of our production facility to a 10,000 sq ft. factory in London. I secured grants to implement a green lighting project and reduce our carbon footprint. Recently my work overseeing quality assurance and continuous process improvement has taken on a new initiative and I am excited to help lead the charge to move the company towards being zero-waste.”
Passionate about equity, diversity and inclusion, Taiwo has fostered that culture in her company. “I have been responsible for workforce growth and development recruiting, training and directly managing more than 60 staff. I am especially grateful for the opportunity to provide meaningful employment to new immigrants like myself who may face barriers to the job market.” Having been exposed to various cultures around the world, she says, “I respect the beauty and uniqueness that everyone brings to the table. I believe that everyone should be given a fair and equitable chance.”
“Art is everything to me,” says Taiwo. She started painting relatively recently and has met an amazing community in London through art and culture, donating her work to local organizations. She also finds the time to volunteer to support causes that are dear to her such as the Canadian Cancer Society.
Her advice for newcomers is, “Find ways to share your story, your talents and your gifts with others. People you meet can open doors for you in a myriad ways. You may also find that the people you meet are often willing to help if you ask for it. Be willing to share your gifts, even if that gift is time. Get connected to the things, organizations, initiatives, projects that inspire you and allow you to serve and give back in a meaningful way. You will be amazed at the doors that open for you.”
Taiwo believes that London has given her the opportunity to live the life of her dreams. To be able to pursue her career, her passion for the arts, to contribute to the community through volunteering opportunities and to be able to raise her children in a beautiful and safe city.
Taiwo concludes, “I am grateful that we chose London, and for all of the connections we have made and the support we received along the way. We are happy that London has become our home.”