Wellington Welcomes

We asked members of newcomer and immigrant communities to share what it is like to live and work in Wellington County. Below are their stories.

We are grateful to our participants for welcoming us into their lives and sharing their stories with us. Read on to learn how these passionate individuals and families turned challenges into opportunities and now call Wellington County their home.

Woman posing in front of wall mural of japanese characted holding a plate of sushi
Man standing in front of wall tapestry holding tiling tool wearing backwards baseball cap
Man standing in front of a mustard yellow wall leaning his arms on the back of two chairs in front of a nicely set table in his restaurant
Woman in hijab seated on a brown patterned sofa holding a homemade chocolate bundt cake out for the camera
Chef smiling at the camera while carving meat from a vertical rotisserie
Woman posing with a handful of paintbrushes in front her painting of Sophia Lauren
Man and women seated together on loveseat
Man with long beard smiling while painting with a long paint roller
Woman in white lab coat smiling
Man standing in grocery store produce aisle next to mounds of brightly coloured fruits
Man standing in front of wall tapestry holding tiling tool wearing backwards baseball cap
Lady sitting at desk sowing

Mina Kim

Mina Kim | Owner, Ikiru Sushi

My name is Mina Kim. I was born in South Korea and lived there until I graduated high school. I visited Canada to learn English and fell in love with the beautiful nature of the country, it is because of that I decided to make the move to Canada. I knew Canada would be a good fit – even if we do have -25°C winter weather.

I first settled in Toronto and worked at a coffee shop. It was a simple job, but even a routine conversation with customers was difficult. Now, I have made my home in Fergus within Wellington County, where I run my own restaurant of 12 years, Ikiru Sushi, alongside my husband.

“Fergus is a great place to enjoy the advantages of cities a short drive away, while experiencing the benefits of small-town life.”

I knew I would not be able to work long hours in the city with young children, so the small-town setting of Fergus seemed right for us. Today, my children have grown up and are students in high school and university. I am proud of what I have accomplished here. It was hard, but with help from the Wellington County community, I managed to successfully balance working and raising my children at the same time.

My favorite place in the County is along the riverside behind the Fergus Library. The Grand River is such a beautiful place with the many trails in Fergus and Elora. Walking on quiet trails with my dog Blu, surrounded by trees is magical, especially in the fall. I enjoy the peaceful atmosphere and quality of life that the community offers.

Fergus is a great place to enjoy the advantages of cities a short drive away, while experiencing the benefits of small-town life. As an immigrant, my time in this town has allowed me to learn and experience so many new things. I feel as though I have grown as a person because of this. 

 

Portrait of Mina Kim next to a world map showing her travel from South Korea to Fergus Ontario

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Mitul Kumar Patel

Mitul Kumar Patel | Business Owner, Freshmart, Drayton

My name is Mitul Kumar Patel, fondly known by my employees and local community as Mit. Prior to moving to Drayton, I spent six years in Saskatchewan as an international student with one goal in mind: To call Canada my forever home.

Being an international student was not easy – it involved a lot of sacrifice, hard work, and tears; although my family gave constant support and encouragement throughout the years. My first job in Canada was as a kitchen aid in a Caribbean restaurant. It was tough work, full of new lessons, but through it all, my dream to make my parents proud allowed me to persevere.

“I encourage people to move to the County and to recognize that small towns offer more than one might think – Canada has lots to offer.”
Through a family member I was introduced to the concept of running grocery stores in small town Canada. The idea struck a chord and so I decided to give it a try along with my brother-in-law, who became my business partner in this venture. Today, I am no longer an International Student, but an immigrant entrepreneur of Freshmart in Drayton, Wellington County. I spend my days helping run and maintain the store while sharing my experiences and perspectives with locals and visitors alike. In return, they have taught me about their hometowns and what it takes to be a local in small town rural Canada.

I recently bought a home in Drayton for my young family. On the weekends, we visit the local farmers’ market and stop by the library and the recreation center, play cricket and visit friends and family. 

 

Portrait of Mitul Kumar Patel next to a world map showing her travel from India to Drayton Ontario

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Mohammad Haque

Mohammad Haque | Owner, Fergus Tandoori Grill, Fergus

I am Mohammad, originally from Bangladesh. I came to Canada with a few hundred dollars, an education, and a dream for a better life for both myself and my familyI read about Canada, its democracy, how welcoming it is of immigrants and knew this country would become my home 

My Canadian journey started at a retail store. I always knew I wanted to serve South Asian cuisine to the community. This dream came true in 2006 when I found a business partner sharing my same passion and we started Fergus TandooriSince then, we have been serving authentic Indian and Bengali cuisine to customers from and around Fergus, Wellington County. 

“The small-town charm, beautiful trails, fresh air, open green spaces and especially the Grand River running through Fergus makes this a wonderful place to call home."

Starting a business is hard, but I pushed through to overcome the many difficulties I came to face. Slowly, I got to know my clients and they got to know me. Over the years, these relationships grew. Now people of Fergus know me and recognize me even when I am not at the restaurant. Our hard work is recognized and there is a sense of belonging. The people and the community are warm and friendly. Nothing gives me more joy than to share our love for our community through our cuisine.  

Last December, I moved to Fergus after years of being the proud restauranteur of the Fergus Tandoori Grill, which is a pioneer in Ethnic Indian restaurants in Wellington CountyA state-of-the-art hospital nearby gives me and my (now grown) children peace of mind, knowing healthcare assistance is right where we are. The small-town charm, beautiful trails, fresh air, open green spaces and especially the Grand River running through Fergus makes this a wonderful place to call home. 

 

Portrait of Mohammed Haque next to a world map showing her travel from Bangladesh to Fergus Ontario

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Nidal Almohamad

Nidal Almohamad | Homemaker, Harriston

I am Nidal, a newcomer to Canada. I have called Harriston, Wellington County my home since moving to the country a year and a half ago when the local church sponsored my family from Syria. My brother-in-law, who lives close by, helped us find this wonderful house where I live with my husband and three children.

My husband is a ceramic tiler. He works at a local tiler’s business and finds great satisfaction in his duties there. He does not speak English, but this does not come in the way of friendships he has developed with his co-workers. They are very patient and understanding of him. His boss relies on Google to translate English to Arabic while giving him instructions on what needs to be done. This makes my husband feel included and he brings home lots of stories. I can sense this and I feel truly happy to have made the decision to move to Harriston, Wellington County.

While my husband is at work, I take online English classes. I recently completed my CLB (Canadian Language Benchmark) level three and couldn’t be prouder of myself. The ESL teachers here are very kind and helpful. They allow me to take my time and meet me at my level on my language learning journey.

"The community in Harriston is very warm and welcoming. The hospital I visit in a nearby city has a friendly environment - they have Arabic translators which makes conversations easy."

I am a homemaker and a full-time caretaker of our youngest, special needs 14-year-old. Life can be hard, but that does not stop me from finding beauty in what it has to offer. My refrigerator always has dessert or pastries filled with pistachios, dates, and semolina cakes soaked in syrup, just like my home in Syria would. During my spare time, I visit with family, bake cakes, and make paper flowers and lamps. Doing these things makes me happy and makes the days much easier. 

Portrait of Nidal Almohamad next to a world map showing her travel from Syria to Harriston Ontario

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Saurabh Bose

Saurabh Bose | Business Owner, Osmow’s Fergus

Hello everyone, my name is Saurabh, and I am the owner of Osmow’s in Fergus. I grew up in the Middle East in a country called Oman, where my dad was a school teacher at a school I attended. As I grew older, many people recommended that I study in Canada. I did just that, becoming an international student, and while it was extremely difficult studying business in a new country, I underwent many positive experiences and honed my English-speaking skills. I made many friends during my time at university, and I soon began calling Canada home.

After school, I was hired at a Subway owned by a friend. It was hard for me to learn this new role; however, I persevered and soon figured out how to complete my job responsibilities and handle food properly. Subway was my teacher in the restaurant industry, and it taught me how to manage and run my own business.
"Fergus and Wellington County is a great place to begin a business."
I made the move to the Wellington County area after buying Fergus Osmow’s. I was told about Osmow’s by a friend, and I recognized the business opportunities in a small-town. I wanted to begin working with food again, especially Mediterranean cuisine since it reminded me of home. At first, I was worried about how to manage everything, as this was a solo venture. However, I have had a great experience so far working in Fergus. All the customers are very friendly, welcoming, and always appreciative of me and my food. I also have had little trouble finding employees – I post the job on social media and ask my other employees to spread the work, and people get in touch with me.

The area around my business is peaceful but not boring – I have a membership to one of the local gyms where the vibe is always good. I also find the Grand River waterfront a very soothing place to be, especially when I am kayaking on the water. 

Portrait of Saurabh next to a world map showing his travel from Oman to Fergus Ontario

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Indra Dosanjh

Indra Dosanjh | Artist, Fergus

My name is Indra, and my life has been a tapestry of resilience and adventure. I was raised in the country of Uganda. My family and I were forced to flee under an authoritarian regime, leaving everything we sought refuge in the United Kingdom, while my brothers found sanctuary in Canada.

During a visit to my brothers in Canada, I fell in love with the country. It was a twist of fate when my tech company in the UK referred me to their Toronto office, prompting me to make Canada my home at the age of 21.

"I stumbled upon Fergus and fell in love with the mix of urban amenities and the sense of
community provided by a small town."

I settled in Toronto, but it was during a serendipitous drive through Wellington County that I discovered Fergus. This charming town, with its blend of urban amenities and a close-knit community, instantly resonated with me, evoking fond memories of the tight-knit communities I cherished in Uganda. Fergus became my new home, a place where I could nurture my artistic passion surrounded by simplicity and nature's beauty.

Wearing multiple hats, I work part-time as a tech consultant while indulging my love for art. My art studio is a haven for my grandchildren, who eagerly join me in creating their masterpieces. Engaging with the community, I volunteer on nonprofit boards and initiate local art projects, spreading joy through creativity.

In my downtime, I find solace in tending to my garden and exploring the scenic Fergus Grand River trail and surrounding areas with my pug companion, Bella. These moments in nature rejuvenate my spirit and inspire my artistic expression. Rooted in my diverse Indo-African heritage, I infuse my art with a unique perspective, paying homage to the rich tapestry of cultures that have influenced my journey.

Portrait of Indra next to a world map showing her travel from Uganda to Fergus Ontario

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Judy and Bart Llamido

Judy and Bart Llamido | Executive Director at Long Term Care Home, DZ Truck Driver, Minto


Meet with Judy and Bart, residents and champions of the Filipino community in Palmerston, Town of Minto, Wellington County. The couple was born and raised in the Philippines. In 2010, Judy and Bart made the decision to move to Canada along with their two young children for a better life. They immediately settled in Palmerston, knowing the town would be a great place to raise a family.

Before moving to Canada, Judy was a Registered Nurse in the Philippines while Bart was an Operating Room Technician. Judy and Bart wanted to continue pursuing their passion in their fields. Though they faced a number of challenges in making this happen, Judy and Bart did not let it phase them. Bart started his career in Canada as a Student at a local long-term care while studying his Personal Support Worker credentials.

A few years in, Bart came across a local newspaper calling for community members to join the volunteer firefighter unit. Wanting to give back to the community that had warmly embraced him and his family, Bart took up this opportunity. He’s proud to have been a firefighter for five years. Bart didn’t stop there, going on to get his DZ license, becoming a truck driver for waste management in the region. He has dedicated his time to giving back to the local community in whatever way he can, becoming a respected community member of Palmerston.

Judy continued to pursue her passion in healthcare, getting her Registered Practical Nurse designation before going on to become a Registered Nurse. With hard work, dedication and continuing education, Judy become the Director of Care and then Executive Director of a long-term care home. Working in a care home is no easy task, but Judy took on her role with a caring, compassionate, and generous mindset, becoming a valued member in the lives of many in the local community.

“The peaceful, quite environment is something we look forward to after a long workday.”


The Llamido’s have enjoyed living in Palmerston since landing in Canada and appreciate the community that accepted them and has always been kind to them. The peaceful, quite environment the town offers is something they look forward to after a demanding workday. Their family welcomed their third child in Palmerston a few years ago. As a family, they enjoy walking across the streets, participating in sports at their local park. Bart also plays in a local Filipino Bastkeball League. All in all, Judy and Bart feel truly at home in this bustling down-to-earth community. They are proud to call the community of Palmerston home.

Judy and Bart sit snuggles up on a grey and white couch next to colourful cushions and a pink curtain background. They are both smiling to the camera.

 

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Adam Alhawari

Adam Alhawari | Business Owner, Painter, Drayton


My name is Adam, and I am a painter in the Drayton area. I was born and raised in Syria, just over an hour from Damascus. My family and I found ourselves in a refugee camp in Jordan, hoping to create a safer life, but I knew we could not live this way forever. My dream was to settle in Canada, a country full of opportunities for refugees like me.

My family and I were sponsored to come to Canada by the government and a local church in Drayton. Once here, I wanted to get to work right away. I had been a painter back in Syria, and I wanted to continue my work in this trade. When the church heard of this, they gave me my first job – to paint the new minister’s home. You might not think so, but there are significant differences between painting in Canada compared to Syria. However, I embraced the change and gained many new skills as a result. Word quickly spread that I was a good painter, and soon people from the congregation began hiring me to paint their homes, even though many did not need their homes re-painted.

I started working closely with a construction company, as well as others within the community. The construction company owner, recognizing I was a newcomer, was very patient, guiding me in what I needed to start my business and how to get licensed for painting. Now, I have my own business called “The Guy with the Brush Inc.” where I employ 12 people. 

“We left families back in Syria… however, we gained a family in Drayton, Wellington County.”

My wife and I may have left our families in Syria but gained many new family and friends here in Drayton, Wellington County. Together with my wife’s and my Canadian families, we celebrate Canadian holidays while they celebrate our Syrian holidays with us. We are blessed to live and work in this area – people are helpful and welcoming. When I am not working, I enjoy camping, fishing, or swimming in nearby local lakes. Everyone in the community is supportive and cares about each other.

The key to being successful is not to hold yourself back. My family found that in not holding ourselves back and investing ourselves in our new community, Drayton gave us the same – and more – in return. Because we were successful our church helped us bring over my brother-in-law's family, and now we are working on helping more relatives move. My heart is full of joy that I get to have both my Canadian and Syrian family nearby. My wife, kids, and I gained many families and friends. You will be in good hands in Wellington County.

Adam Adam Alhawari stands in white painters clothes holding a long painters brush again't a white wall, smiling at the camera.

 

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Maneesha Sharma

Maneesha Sharma | Medical Aesthetician, Harriston

My name is Maneesha, and I am a medical aesthetician. I arrived in Canada with my young child in 2004 to be reunited with my husband who arrived in Canada as Permanent Resident two months prior to us. I decided to leave my home in India when I got married as my husband had plans to settle in Canada.

My first job in Canada was at Tim Horton’s in Mississauga. I worked there for nine months while pregnant with my second child. We needed the money back then, especially with a baby on the way. My family and I had to work hard, often moving from city to city in the Greater Toronto Area and nearby regions, going wherever new career opportunities took us.

My husband and I were careful financially; over the years, we began actively investing in real estate. We bought homes and stores across Ontario's cities and towns and finally settled in Harriston, Town of Minto, Wellington County. I liked the town and the schools our children would be going to. I knew I would be able to give my family a quality life here while also pursuing my own business venture.

Initially, hairstyling and beauty services were my focus areas in my career. However, I soon realized there were many methods of providing services within the beauty & health industry. I researched, explored, and studied, discovering the field of aesthetics and finding my true passion in footcare. I am now a medical aesthetician/laser technician and run my own clinic in a building I own, located in downtown Harriston. Word of mouth travels fast, and soon enough, my spa was bustling with new clients. I take pride in serving people from near and far, including as far away as PEI and Winnipeg. Practicing medical aesthetics brings me joy as my work makes people happy and relieves them of their pain. The laser machines I am using are Health Canada approved for non-invasive nail fungal and varicose/spider veins treatment.

“The community in Harriston is very welcoming, real, and trustworthy.”

During my free time, I enjoy the beautiful open spaces and countryside of Harriston. I am a nature lover and love visiting the many trails and beaches nearby. My children partake in swimming and skating activities. I love the local Harriston community, and I support and sponsor events happening around town. It is my way of giving back to this wonderful community that accepted me and my family for who we are. This town in Wellington County is one I have grown to cherish - the community is very welcoming, real, and trustworthy.

 Maneesha Sharma stands smiling to the camera in a white lab coat with certificates behind her on the wall.

 

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Maulik Kumar Patel

Maulik Kumar Patel | Business Co-Owner, Drayton Freshmart, Drayton

My name is Maulik Kumar Patel, but around town, people know me as Mak. My journey to a new life in Canada began when my sister and her family moved here from India, our home country. Seeing her take this leap made me realize this was a path I wanted to follow – to find a home in a country brimming with opportunities. I made the big move to Canada through a provincial immigration nomination program and lived in a small town in Manitoba for the first few years
upon arrival before eventually making my way to Ontario.


One of my initial jobs was as a stockperson at a local Giant Tiger store. The work was difficult and physical, but I began to enjoy and appreciate the fast-paced retail store environment. While working at the store, I continued looking for work in my field of profession, software engineering, and a short time later I found work as a developer in the IT industry.


I was encouraged by a family member to become a business owner in a small community, and recognizing the chance to regain the fast-paced work life I had come to love, I bought the Freshmart, in Drayton, Wellington County. I am now a software engineer turned business owner and enjoy every minute of my time working out of the store.

“I don’t need to go to the city to entertain myself or my family. The County and the Township does a lot that my children and I enjoy.”

The past few years have been wonderful and my time in the community of Drayton has influenced many of my life decisions, including buying a home and settling close to my business. I am pleasantly surprised by the many facilities available to us. I can walk to pick up my daughter from school, which is down the street from my grocery store. When I am off work, I enjoy being with my family, getting my kids involved at camps hosted by the community, and visiting some of the yummy food trucks that stop in town.

Maulik Kumar

 

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Ahmad Almohamad

Ahmad Almohamad | Tiler, Cover Ups, Harriston

My name is Ahmad. I was born and bought up in Aleppo City, Syria. My family and I had to flee our home country due to the war. I was living in a camp in Turkey when my family and I received word we would be sponsored to move to Canada a little over six years ago. Our main sponsor was the Minto Refugee Settlement Committee, a local group of volunteers associated with the Presbyterian Church in Harriston. They were a beacon of hope who made it possible for us to start a new life in Canada and call this country home, helping us with appointments and driving us wherever we needed to go.


As a boy, I took interest in learning how to set tiles. Every day after attending the madrasa (school) in Syria, I would run to work as a tiler’s assistant. This work brought me so much joy and happiness. In grade nine, I began pursuing this interest in earnest, joining a tile business to truly work as a tiler. When I came to Canada, I knew I wanted to follow my passion of setting tiles here too. This dream became reality during an interview with a journalist after I had moved to Harriston.


The local community read about my journey. Many community members called upon me to wish me and my family success. One of them was the owner of a local tile setting business. I was offered a job, and since then, there has been no looking back. The owner, my boss, is very supportive and I consider him a good friend. While I was learning the English language to integrate into the community, my boss often relied upon Google to help translate English into Arabic, faciliting easier communication with me and the other Syrian employees he hired. He frequently speaks to clients about my work. It truly makes me feel as though I belong in my workplace, and this acknowledgement not only provides a sense of happiness, but motivates me to continue to do the best work I possibly can.

“My boss speaks to clients about my work, and this makes me very happy. My ability gets acknowledged and I feel a sense of belonging at my job.”

Everyone in the community of Harriston is very warm, helpful, and welcoming. Locals know all my children by their first names, and I do not need to worry about them while they play outside. My family enjoys walking around town, going to the nearby gym, stopping to enjoy ice cream while the children bike and play in the splash pads. It is very peaceful here.

Ahmad Almohamad

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Olena Michalchenkova

Olena Michalchenkova | Seamstress and Fabric Artist, Olena’s Sewing Corner

Hello, my name is Olena, and I am a seamstress and artist in Fergus. I was born in the beautiful city of Kharkiv, Ukraine. When the war broke out in Ukraine, I took my children and fled to Poland to find safety. We stayed there for half a year, and then were sponsored to move to Canada in the Fall of 2022. Our sponsor lived on a farm, so my children and I lived on their farm until we could afford an apartment. Living on the farm was an incredible experience – the peaceful country atmosphere and gorgeous scenery filled me with joy.

 

When I arrived, I was at a loss for what to do. I began working at a local restaurant; the job was interesting, and many of my co-workers became my friends. However, I knew I wanted to return to sewing, a craft I was truly passionate about. I was a seamstress in Ukraine and had been working with fabrics since high school. I also upcycled a lot since I love to make something from nothing. After finding an apartment in downtown Fergus, I began sewing and creating upcycled pieces with an old machine my sponsor had gifted me. This was the start of my business, Olena’s Sewing Corner.

 

Seeing my work, people began recommending me to their friends, and with the power of word-of-mouth, a large and loyal client base began to form. My business began expanding, and my creativity and passion for this art was illustrated through the pieces I make/mend. I have added new machines to my inventory, including an industrial-style Serger that reminds me of my time working on industrial machines in Poland. I also teach art and sewing lessons to people of all ages.

“I am loving life more and more in Wellington County; my soul feels safe and at home.”

Something I love about the community is the people – they’re very friendly, grateful, and always willing to help. The people make the place, and I am very proud to call Fergus my new home. I enjoy the quiet yet bustling town centre, which also has some amazing architecture. In my free time, I enjoy going for walks and foraging for herbs. Making different kinds of tea is a hobby of mine – I often share these recipes with neighbours and friends. I also would like to begin painting more outside since I have always loved the nature in the area. I am loving life more and more in Wellington County; my soul feels safe and at home.

Olena Michalchenkova 

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Wellinton County Welcomes You! 

Whether you are a newcomer, immigrant, or visiting from afar, Wellington County offers small-town experiences with stunning natural beauty, while in close proximity to large urban centres. Join our growing community and learn more about living and working in Wellington County, or plan your next countryside vacation:

Make Wellington County Your HomePlanning a Getaway? Settlement Services


 

Disclaimer: Content represents individual participant’s journey, challenges and how they came to live and work in the County. These stories and photos are being published after review and approval from individual participants.

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