“Community Champions” is a media campaign led by the South Okanagan-Similkameen Local Immigration Partnership (SOSLIP) and supported by Castanet. We share stories that raise awareness about the contributions that immigrants make to the community while introducing the small businesses of new Canadians.
Darya Shalev lived in the beautiful town of Zichron Yaakov in Israel. It is one of the first modern settlements located on Mount Carmel with amazing views over the Coastal Plain and the Mediterranean Sea. In Israel she managed an after-school program for children and loved her job. Having a creative personality, Shalev enjoyed dancing and teaching others, painting and doing crafts.
She came to Canada in 2013. Her main reason for moving to Canada was the political and economic situation in Israel. She also wanted to change her personal situation – open a business, further develop her skills. It was hard for her to do so in Israel being divorced with two children to raise.
“It took me about three years to have my application processed. I also had to spend a lot of money because I didn’t know the process at the time. So, it was tough for me,” Shalev said.
As a child educator with over 20 years of experience she received a job offer to teach Hebrew, and worked as a private tutor for a family in Vancouver.
“I was a very independent person before, used to travel all over the world. It was a big change for me to live with another family… I traveled around Vancouver a lot trying to learn more about life in Canada. I didn’t have any friends, so I was by myself a lot,” Shalev recalled.
The family that she worked for moved to South Okanagan – the mother got a job in Kelowna and they settled in Penticton.
“When we came here…the first day…this is a fairy tale about how I found my husband, Greg… I went to a nature fare and I sat at a coffee shop and this is when I met him. I met him and…it was very strong. It was fate.”
In one year, the family that she worked for could not afford to employ her anymore and she was left without a job and without a visa. She was without a job for a while.
“I did not want to burden Greg with my financial situation. We just met and were getting to know each other. It was challenging to survive but I have good faith – if I want something, I am going to do it.”
In a few years, when they got married, Shalev decided to start her own business – a daycare for eight children. She went through the licensing process and everyone was helpful along the way. She bought all the equipment for children but then found out that she could not use the space upstairs because the children couldn’t sleep in the same space. This meant that she could only work with three children, instead of eight.
Greg thought about a new business idea – a driving school. He learned how to do it and they established a driving school that they called “Right Turn Driving School”.
“Apparently, he is a great teacher. We have clients from all over the region. And I am good at running a business as well. I didn’t know that. It wasn’t like that in the beginning. I had to learn a lot and I asked people to teach me, and I didn’t give up,” Shalev explained.
“Now I am ready to start another business – something very close to my heart. I am an art and dance therapist, so I hope to start a center where I can work with people and share my knowledge.”
“I had to leave behind my two daughters. It was the most challenging thing for me to do. They are 24 and 21 years old now. The older one is studying at a university and the younger one is in a special needs program. She has autism. I can support them now, which I couldn’t do after my divorce. My mom is also there, and my friends. Everyone thought I was crazy to leave my life behind but I believe they are not thinking like this now. My daughters have their family, their life there and I am building my life here. I am applying for my citizenship now,” Shalev said.