18 Jan Meet the new COA facilitator in Lagos, Nigeria
COA Nigeria is a brand new permanent training site, based in the IOM office in Lagos. Meet the new COA Coordinator and Facilitator, Ms. Onose Oboh, who recently returned to Nigeria after more than 5 years living and working in Fort St. John, British Columbia.
Onose ObohCOA Nigeria Facilitator
How did you become a facilitator with the Canadian Orientation Abroad (COA) Program?
In January 2015, I decided to move back to Nigeria after having spent more than five years in Fort St. John, British Columbia. In Canada, I had worked for two years as both an office manager and a settlement coordinator with S.U.C.C.E.S.S; an organization providing immigrant support and settlement services in various locations around British Columbia. Upon my return to Nigeria, I heard about the vacancy with the COA program and thought it would be fantastic to build on my Canadian experience and continue, from the departure end of the immigration continuum, to provide settlement support to newcomers preparing for their move to Canada.
How is your day-to-day work?
The establishment of a new COA site is a gradual and very creative process. In the beginning, COA Management in Kenya established a working relationship with the Canadian Embassy in Nigeria and it is through their networking support that I was hired, and also the COA Program Support Assistant, Ms. Wumi Ekun. Since then, maintaining a strong relationship with Canadian embassy staff in both Nigeria and Ghana has been critical in establishing a solid referral system and coordinating the registration of participants into COA sessions. Together with IOM Nigeria (in Lagos and Abuja) and the COA Global Manager, we identified space, furniture, and equipment needs and prepared for our first sessions. A large number of training materials were also shipped from Manila and Nairobi to COA Nigeria. As the COA facilitator, I am also dedicating a lot of my time to learning about the COA immigrant curriculum, integrating existing activities that can enhance my session content, and learning about Nigerian immigration to Canada. As a COA coordinator, I need to make sure that all administrative aspects are taken care of, that IOM rules are applied, that all resources and tools are there to guide our COA participants and that I am ready to address their concerns and answer their great questions.
What does it entail to be a facilitator and provide pre-arrival orientation to newcomers?
Being a facilitator entails having a deep knowledge on the topic/subject in question. A facilitator must be flexible enough to adapt to different learning styles, and group dynamics, while making sure that core content is covered. As such, I think that a good facilitator must be genuinely interested in the information being disseminated and in the participants’ history, goals and trajectories.
Active listening is critical to interpret and disseminate messages across, as well as understand what participants with lower language skills might be saying. A good facilitator must show respect and keep a positive and friendly attitude. While inclusiveness and understanding remain key assets for orientation facilitators, being structured is also critical to ensure a balanced and smooth delivery.
As both a Nigerian and a Canadian, I am able to relate to my own experience and history as a newcomer to Canada. Speaking about the challenges that I myself experienced upon arriving in Canada helps to build trust with the participants. In the meantime, I also emphasize different experiences based on different individuals and groups (i.e. youth versus elders) as well as resilience in times of change.
COA Facilitator Onose Oboh (centre-front), with a group of immigrant participants in Lagos, Nigeria on November 12th, 2015.
Who are the participants that you serve in Lagos, and in the other locations where you have also offered a session?
It is a bit challenging to portray participants from Nigeria based on the 195 participants that we have trained so far. What I can say is that most were Federal Skilled Workers (FSW), with a few Provincial Nominees (PN). All were proficient in English and very well prepared for the session. This provided for a perfect learning environment, as everyone was eager to further their knowledge and preparation. I generally found the participants to be very open, and ready to adapt to change. They came with a positive outlook on their future and are willing to work hard to succeed in Canada. Group discussions are always very lively, and participants are happy to help each other, and to stay connected beyond the COA session. We encourage all participants to network among themselves. By the end of the session, participants understand that challenges will come with opportunities, and that staying connected and making friends in Canada will help them to integrate and find new job prospects.
What do you find the most challenging in being a COA facilitator? What do you find the most rewarding?
The most challenging thing is to manage participants’ questions and to stick to the program, because participants are eager to learn and to get immediate answers. We always start the day by discussing and listing, on a flip-chart, the pressing questions that participants have. We then inform them that each question will be answered, at some point, during the course of the one-day session. We also distribute a handbook and self-learning tools that help participants continue their preparation beyond the COA session.
The most rewarding part of being a COA facilitator is being able to help newcomers prepare for their new lives in Canada. Having gone through the adaptation process, I understand their fears and am able to provide accurate information to counteract misguiding information received from other parties (i.e. friends and relatives in Canada). Seeing participants leave with a clear understanding of what to do and where to go to get help upon arrival is very satisfying. Empowering participants is very important to me and I hope that I can make a difference in their immigration to Canada.