How a Nigerian immigrant's YouTube videos are helping other newcomers adapt to Saskatoon
SASKATOON -- Even in a pandemic, Saskatoon is still welcoming new families from outside the country and the job of helping them feel welcome and adapt continues.
The Open Door Society is currently seeing about six to eight families a month. Ian Shaw with the Open Door Society says before the pandemic, they would see about 3,700 newcomer families coming in per year and in March when the pandemic started, they saw a big drop.
Numbers have come up since then because Shaw says the process does not stop due to COVID-19.
“The immigration process is a lengthy process. Many of these families are waiting years for their immigration process to come through so telling them to hold off for another year is a large thing to ask.”
Families are usually large with four or more children. All newcomers are screened for COVID-19 before they leave their home country. Health screening is part of the regular process according to Shaw.
The services at the Open Door Society include a youth program which helps those under 22 settle in to their new city which is a big change for most, according to Jessica Liao, youth program facilitator.
She tells CTV News that a video project helps youth express themselves through technology.
“It gives them another tool and strategy to show their own stories and highlight their own experiences and through that process build self esteem and confidence as well as get connected to mentors and peers,” Liao said.
The videos are posted to YouTube and feature topics such as camping in Saskatchewan, comparing schools here and back home, why they left their home country and what’s it’s like coming to a new country and culture.
Making videos is popular with another newcomer from Nigeria, Marina lyeme-Eteng, who has been making newcomer videos for two years.
In her YouTube productions she covers topics like: the best neighbourhoods in Saskatoon, as well as the best stores to shop at, a lockdown birthday celebration, setting up a Christmas tree and how to get an accounting certification, all things she knew so little about when she arrived. She wants to help those who are feeling the same way she did as a newcomer.
“I can sense the fear of the unknown and the anxiety. Similar feelings that I had when I moved,” lyeme-Eteng told CTV News.
She currently has more than 7,000 followers on her channel which is surprising to her because she didn’t think she would extend her fan base beyond her friends and family.
“It really humbles me. This thing I started as a hobby of me just me talking to people has grown to 7,000 plus subscribers strong. Amazing feeling, amazing,” Iyeme-Eteng said.
When she started, she says she had to coerce those she knew to watch the videos, but then she started to get new followers from Nigeria and since then the videos have gained a much larger global audience.
“I people sending me message from Pakistan, the Philippines, as far as the United Arab Emirates, Dubai, Bangladesh, from the U.S. and the U.K,” she said.
She has even had people from Toronto and other parts of eastern Canada inquiring about moving to Saskatoon, a city she says surprised her because the people are so friendly and helpful. At first she thought it was an act, she says.
Iyeme-Eteng lives with her husband and two children who are eight and six years old and they make appearances in her videos, adding their own flair to the segments.
She hopes to expand the assistance she provides to those who are moving here by offering a welcome service at the airport to ensure those who land in Saskatchewan have someone to welcome them, extending the Saskatoon hospitality she has grown to love about life here.