World Refugee Day Special: Noella’s Story

From Congo to Canada, Noella Kayitesi, a single mom to a five-year-old boy, is overcoming language barriers to build a future for her and her family in Canada

By Taylor Richards

With ongoing war in Congo, Noella Kayitesi and her family fled to Rwanda. It was her, her mom, two sisters, and her five-year-old son, Bravo. They lived in a refugee camp until they were sponsored to come to Canada under a BVOR (blended visa, with both government and private support).

“The immigration journey has been well. Canada is peaceful and I am able to pursue my goals and raise my children,” says Noella. But, the language barrier in particular has been a challenge for the Kinyarwanda native speaker.

“English language is a challenge; it is a barrier for me to make meaningful connections,” she says. “Sometimes running errands becomes overwhelming due to a lack of English language. I am currently doing English classes.”

Noella was connected to the language classes, and other services at DIVERSEcity like its food security program, through her DIVERSEcity RISE Youth case specialist, Angelique. The RISE Youth Program supports immigrants and refugees who are facing multiple and complex barriers in their settlement journey, with specialized case management, life skills development, supported access to resources, and social and emotional support.

“These programs have been great for my family as they have assisted me in integration, eating healthy and getting health care,” Noella says. “My RISE case specialist assisted me with my integration and needs.”

Just 25 years old, Noella has already overcome so much, but her future is full of hope, with plans of furthering her education and acquiring Canadian citizenship.

Her advice for other newcomers? “Get familiar with the Canadian culture and official languages, and make connections with community members and organizations such as DIVERSEcity. The only way to navigate the system and to get help that you need is through these organizations and community members who know the system,” she says.

Are you a newcomer facing multiple barriers? DIVERSEcity’s Refugee and Immigrant Specialized Experienced Program assists newcomers to use their strengths to cope with issues and barriers, and to increase their skills and knowledge to independently settle and integrate. Connect with our RISE Youth and RISE team via email at