Strictly Business 2016 honors three participants in JEVS Human Services’ programs who have overcome great obstacles and achieved their personal and career goals. Meet our second “Inspiration Award” winner, Gentil Ndizihiwe.
After escaping the violent conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo with his parents when he was just five months old, Gentil Ndizihiwe lived the next phase of his life in Rwanda. The oldest child, Gentil and his family–including his 4 siblings who were all born in the refugee camp–were one of tens of thousands of families to escape the unrest in his home country.
“It was tough to grow up in refugee camp. Just waiting for help from great nation to provide the food, the education, it was tough. We had a very small house built up with mud and sheeting on top. If it’s raining–with the holes on it–the rain is gonna come to you. It was not easy.”
Though Gentil went to school in the camp, he said the education was not good for a variety of reasons: not enough materials, non-skilled teachers, 45 kids cramped in a class with just chairs and no desks. Most importantly, Gentil and his classmates didn’t receive the level of skills for their needs.
Gentil and his family endured in the refugee camp for 16 years until, after a 2-year interview process, they were given the opportunity to immigrate to America. “That’s one of my special days. I have to celebrate every year. June 18th, 2014, was the first day I got here.”
“Some people from my school, they go, ‘Gent, you going to America?! We can’t believe it, bro. You going to America.’ I say, ‘Yes, bro, I’m going to America.’ So now sometimes I talk to them, they say, ‘Gent, how is America?’ So I tell them everything. They think America is like something that is not real. Something just really amazing.”
The family relocated to “the beautiful city of Philadelphia,” he said, when he was just finishing high school. Always serious about his learning and possessing a strong work ethic, Gentil immediately sought support for his academic and career pursuits and connected with JEVS Center for New Americans refugee program to find employment.
He didn’t speak English, but his drive and focus earned him placement in JEVS Project WOW (World of Work), a free career training program open to 18 to 24-year-olds without a high school diploma. Gentil excelled in Project WOW, consistently exhibiting strong team leadership, drive for self-improvement, and active engagement in and out of the classroom. In about four month’s time, he earned his GED (upon retaking the language section a couple of times) as well as a trades diploma in property maintenance and repair. Shortly after graduating from Project WOW, Gentil started an interim job that was soon replaced by a full-time position at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.
Now only 21-years-old, Gentil aspires to continue his education and advance his career. He is an example for his family and peers abroad, showing everyone that support is readily available if you have the courage to accept it.