From Nigerian orphanage to snowy Calgary, adopted boy’s family finds silver lining in pandemic

A three-year-old boy from a Nigerian orphanage has been celebrating the April snowfall in Calgary after his family was able to bring the adopted boy back to Canada months ahead of schedule.

In November, the Watson family flew to Nigeria to adopt Chidi, and travelled on to Ghana, where they waited for his Canadian citizenship. 

The Watsons believed it would be a four-month process, but soon after arriving were told it would take about a year. 

And when the world began shutting down in early March, there was even more uncertainty for the family. 

But that month, Nicole and Dave Watson began writing letters to their MP and other government officials. Within three weeks, they received three pieces of good news: Chidi’s citizenship was approved, his visa was ready and there was a repatriation flight available. 

The Watson family from left: Jake, 5, Nicole, Dave and Chidi, 3. The family travelled to Nigeria to adopt Chidi in November but the process took longer than expected and the family didn’t get back to Canada until just over three weeks ago. (Watson family)

The Watsons’ journey

After experiencing fertility issues following the birth of their first son, Jake, the Watsons decided four years ago that their second child would come via adoption.

They knew it would be a long process.

In December 2018, they submitted an application to adopt from Nigeria. 

And in October 2019, the Watsons received an email.

“They were basically like, ‘This is your child, we need you come to Nigeria for November 1, make it happen,'” said Nicole.

So they made it happen.

The entire family travelled to the West African country to meet their newest member. 

‘A long time to be away from home’

There, the Watsons got to know Chidi a little before Dave and Jake flew back to Canada.

Nicole stayed behind to handle the citizenship and visa Chidi would need to move to Calgary. 

She soon realized it would take far longer than the four months the family expected the journey to take. Officials were saying it would be a year before Chidi would be a Canadian citizen.

“It’s expensive and a long time to be away from home,” said Nicole. 

Dave and Jake returned to relieve Nicole on March 8, just when the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning to cause massive global shutdowns.

Unexpected email 

Flights were being cancelled all over the place, but the family wasn’t leaving without Chidi, who legally couldn’t travel to his new home country.

By then, Nicole and Chidi were in Ghana. That country’s consular services handles citizenship applications for West Africans.

The family went into lockdown in their rented apartment in the capital, Accra, and began writing politicians and other Canadian officials asking what they should do.

Then, one day about four weeks ago, Nicole got an email letting her know Chidi’s citizenship had been approved. 

“It was just out of the blue, we weren’t expecting anything.… I found my husband and said, ‘Read this, what does this say?'”

‘A family of four’

Over the next week, everything else fell into place — the Canadian government offered a flight and Chidi’s visa was approved within days.

“It was very surreal,” said Nicole. 

On March 31, the family boarded a flight, and two days later they were home in Canada.

The Watsons might be the only family in Calgary who celebrated all the snow that’s fallen in the past few weeks. 

It was the thing Chidi was most excited about.

“He was so excited to come home for snow … he built a snowman, he was excited to wear the hat and mitts and boots.”

The brothers have “bonded really well,” said Nicole. 

“I still can’t believe that we’re home and we’re a family of four.”

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