Odetta Ntezicimpa: Empowering Migrants in New Zealand

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Odetta Ntezicimpa came to New Zealand in 1999 as a refugee from Burundi. At that time the country was far from being the melting pot as it is becoming. The first barrier that she encountered was a language barrier as she spoke French, Swahili and Kirundi fluently but spoke very little English which made securing a job difficult and in fact impossible.

In Burundi Odetta was a trained teacher but in Auckland she lived on odd jobs and had to take up voluntary positions to get her foot in the door of the New Zealand workforce. She overcame the hurdle of speaking English by taking English classes but then faced a transportation problem. Public transportation was limited and she could not effortlessly take her children to school so Odetta sought solutions to her problems. Odetta knew that there were numerous other people who faced the similar problem of lack of reliable timely transportation. The saying goes when life gives you lemons make lemonade; and turned her lemons into lemonade by starting Mobile Driving School.

Odetta is the owner of Mobile Driving School which she started in 2008. She not only provides a service to refugees and new migrants but she provides liberty to women and men who are able to go places and achieve their independence in a foreign land. In some African societies men do not like women to drive as a means to  control them  and so being able to drive gives these women the liberty to go where they want to and to experience life in New Zealand in ways that they did not think possible.

The road to Mobile Driving was not without obstacles. Like most entrepreneurs when Odetta  applied for a loan initially she was denied on the basis of the viability of the business. The creditor had little to no knowledge of the migrant market and assumed that the business was unsustainable. This did not stop Odetta who bulldozed her way and secured funding to get her car and outfit it to make it conducive for drivers in training.

Odetta has worked with people from more than 30 ethnic groups which is challenging and exciting for her to learn about other cultures and to empower migrants in their new home country. In her own words Odetta explains

Everyone I met was always talking about what they used to
do and complaining that they couldn’t do it anymore. Maybe
you have to change course, but if you stick with the skills
you already have, it isn’t as hard. I couldn’t teach in schools
anymore, but I found another way to teach and I’m really
happy. I will be teaching my whole life.

Visit her site at http://www.mobiledrivingschool.org/

Source: NZ Office of Ethnic Affairs