Nteziryayo Kadomo is a member of the Banyamulenge tribe of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). He was born in South Kivu but grew up in Katanga. However, he returned to South Kivu in 1998, soon after a civil war broke out in his country. Kadomo moved from South Kivu to Burundi in 2002 in order to avoid the war that ravaged his country, and it was in Burundi that he got his first job—looking after a small library located in the refugee camp he lived in. Despite the many challenges of camp life, Kadomo took college classes, and he says that his language skills were also first put to use at this time when he became an interpreter for many of his people who began arriving in Burundi from the DRC in 2003.
In 2007, Kadomo migrated to the US. He first settled in Oakland, California, where he enrolled in college (partly to strengthen his English language skills while he learned about his new country); later, he moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, where he worked with Farmland Foods; after that, he moved to North Dakota, where he worked for an oil firm; and finally, he moved to Kansas City, where he first worked with the Jewish Vocational Services before joining the Language Services department of the Kansas City Public Schools.
Kadomo recalls the difficulties of adjusting to a new culture after his immigration to the US, exclaiming, “I didn’t know anything!” He points out that he was able to adjust to his new home only because of the help and advice he got from people like his pastor in Oakland, who taught him everything about succeeding in the US—from knowing how to build credit, to how to conduct oneself in social situations. Kadomo says that he is very grateful for those who helped him adjust to life in the US, and he identifies this as one of the reasons he helps refugees settle into their lives in the US. He says with pride, “Now, all of my people come to me for advice; it is not easy to explain this system to them as it’s a little complicated, but I do my best.”
Kadomo works with the Language Services department of the Kansas City Public Schools as a Kinyarwanda, Swahili, French, Kirundi, and Kinyamulenge interpreter and also as a school-parent liaison. He says that he takes a problem-solving/relationship approach to his job. “This work is a little complicated because you are dealing with different people [with different needs],” he says. “I have different ways of resolving their problems; I have different ways of talking to each person. However, for all of them, I listen and take time to understand; then I try to answer their questions as well as I can.” He then adds, “With the kids, though, I approach the job a little differently; I just interpret what the teachers says to them—I just interpret. Sometimes the situation between the teacher and the student is a bit difficult, but I just interpret.”
Kadomo lives with his wife and young son, and he likes to be involved in the community. He serves as a pastor at a church in the Northeast. He says that he is determined to commit his life to helping people. Smiling, he says, “I love this job mainly because I am helping my community.”