Penticton immigrant shares story of tough start in Canada that led to success

Hard start leads to success

“Community Champions” is a media campaign led by the South Okanagan-Similkameen Local Immigration Partnership and supported by Castanet. We share stories that raise awareness about the contribution immigrants make to the community while introducing the small businesses of new Canadians.

An immigrant to Canada who had a rough start to his experience has found new footing, community and success in Penticton.

Shalindra K.C. is originally from Nepal. Before moving to Canada, he and his wife Laxmi lived in Dubai for eight years. He worked in the retail sector, at a large Spanish chain of grocery stores. As an administrator, he supervised over 90 employees, coordinating multiple business aspects from human resources to finances.

“Everything was good. The job was good. But everything is temporary there. You cannot apply for a permanent residency. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you have lived there for one year or a hundred years. One day you will have to go back to your home country,” said Shalindra.

The couple decided to move to Canada. An immigration consultant promised Shalindra that he would have a job in retail, which would lead to a permanent residency. However, when he came to Vancouver in April 2013, the job was not available.

“There were about a hundred people like me brought by that immigration consultant. I was jobless for two months. I came with only $1,000 hoping that I will start working right away. I had no accommodation, no food. There were 10 or 12 of us living in one basement. We were sleeping on the floor, surrounded by cockroaches. When it rained the basement would get flooded, and we had to move our luggage somewhere to save our belongings," Shalindra said.

He was sent for training to Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories where he stayed for four months. When he returned to Vancouver, the job that was promised to him was still not available. The immigration company sent him to yet another two-month training in Surrey, without pay.

“I had no money for the bus fare, so I had to walk to work, which took me almost two hours one way. We used to go to a Hindu temple to get food. It was not the happiest time of my life,” he recounted.

Finally, he was offered a job at Mac’s convenience store in Summerland. He had to rent a two-bedroom house, because nothing smaller was available. His salary barely covered the rent. When his wife Laxmi joined him and started to work, they were able to make the ends meet. Shalindra worked very hard, and was promoted to a store manager position.

“Everything was good but then we found out that our work permits were expired and our Provincial Nominee application was declined. Luckily, we received our permanent residency through the Express Entry program, as we were already working here. My store manager, Scott Gillespie, helped me with this.”

Currently, Shalindra works as a store manager at 7/11 in Summerland and also owns his own financial business, a franchise of the Experior Financial Group.

As a senior financial advisor, Shalindra offers a number of services, including life, disability, critical illness and travel insurances, health and dental coverage, as well as various kinds of saving plans and investments.

“What I like the most about my business is that I make money for myself only if I make money for other people – my clients. It is also about building your legacy. Whatever money and business I have, I can transfer to my next generation – my son.”

The idea of getting into this business field came to Shalindra when he and his wife were looking for a life insurance.

“We bought a house in Penticton and I was driving to Summerland for work every day. We thought – what if something happens to me or Laxmi? What would happen with our son then? So, we decided to purchase a life insurance," Shalindra said.

After exploring some options, he decided to learn the business for himself.

“I was on a parental leave at the time, so I had some time to do my research. I realized that everyone needs to have financial knowledge. I learned quite a lot, and became interested in this area of business. I like the flexibility of this business and that I could start it with a very small investment. Anyone can do that. I got some training and a license. Now I have more than 300 clients, and, in the future, I plan to have it as a full-time job. I am currently training a few people to join my team and plan to hire more people," Shalindra said, with joy.

Since his business is expanding, Shalindra has already applied for Ontario and Alberta licenses.

Shalindra’s parents and his brother live in Nepal. His father still works and his brother is running a small family-owned grocery store. Shalindra visits them once every six years.

“I miss them. Wish I could see them more often. I can’t wait for my parents to move here with us…I remember being a child and walking to school and back home…those roads, nature… When it’s raining here, I really miss Nepal…the smell of the mud on the roads, the smell of wet wood. This brings me back to my childhood.”

“We have a son – my heart. We are a small and happy family. We are now in a good place and this is 100 per cent because of my wife’s support. Since the first day, she has been very supportive. When we were applying to come to Canada, we didn’t have enough money to move here, but she encouraged me. The same happened when we were planning to buy a house. I am a math guy, so I kept calculating and worrying about how we would be able to pay the mortgage and what we will live on, but she told me not to worry and just do it,” Shalindra said, with a wide smile.

Shalindra is a member of JCI Penticton and the local Chamber of Commerce. Before the pandemic, he was involved in fundraising for the community foodbanks.

Shalindra’s advice for newcomers is to try to learn as much as possible about how various systems work before moving here.

"Don’t think that you will come to Canada and do a certain job. Do your research – find out what kind of education and skills you need for this job. You might need a license for your profession. Research about the financial situation – taxes and other costs. Learn about the health and education systems. These services are not completely free. Most importantly, create a circle of friends and join community groups, such as South Okanagan Immigrant and Community Services. They helped us a lot. I got my food safe, first aid and serving it right certificates there. I also attended the Toastmasters program that helped me with my public speaking skills. My wife learned English there. We met many people and developed friendships."

Shalindra volunteers with the South Okanagan Immigrant and Community Services (SOICS) by providing workshops for newcomers on financial literacy.

Find out more about SOICS online here.

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