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B.C. woman faces racism, homelessness chasing dream of being a doctor

Nyasha Katedza is raising funds to help her through medical school
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Nyasha Katedza has launched a GoFundMe to help her through medical school. (Photo contributed)

Martha Wickett

Contributor

Despite having had to overcome daunting obstacles, a former Shuswap resident has never stopped reaching for her dream.

Over the years Nyasha Katedza has been without a home, spent nearly 12 years in the immigration system, faced racism, yet has hung onto her goal of becoming a medical doctor.

Nearly three decades after she achieved a Bachelor of Science degree, she was able to complete the MCAT exam (Medical College Admission Test) and has been accepted into a medical school. She will be starting her education in January 2024 at Western Atlantic University School of Medicine in the Bahamas.

Although the university will pay $22,000 for tuition for her first semester, she is still facing a huge expense – $300,000 over the next four years.

As a mature student, she has discovered that most of the scholarships available aren’t for people 40 and over.

To help her get through the huge workload and commitment of medical school, Katedza launched a GoFundMe earlier this autumn. She’s been told it would be impossible to work much while navigating the ‘firehose’ of information she’ll be deluged with.

Katedza’s GoFundMe page can be found under ’Send Nyasha to Medical School,’ www.gofundme.com/f/send-nyasha-to-medical-school.

Katedza came from Zimbabwe to North America. Her family is spread throughout the world as a result of the Mugabe era in that country.

It was in New York City that Katedza first experienced homelessness. She explained it’s very difficult to get out of poverty; the system prevents people from starving but is not designed to help people climb out.

Instead, she walked out.

“I got up and started walking and walked myself out of homelessness. I said nothing is going to change here.”

She made her way across the country, walking and catching rides, ending up in San Francisco. From California she headed to Canada.

Katedza said the financial barrier to escaping poverty is huge, particularly combined with the racism she experienced in the workplace.

“I’m a black woman, a woman of colour. Because of that fact there’s a segment of society that thinks that’s a reason for you not to be anywhere. So in certain circumstances that’s been a barrier.”

Katedza’s determination to become a doctor was fuelled in 1996 when her father died following difficulties diagnosing his illness.

Read more: Almost 1 in 5 B.C. seniors at risk of homelessness: Report

Read more: Promised new SFU Surrey medical school to be ready by 2026, B.C. announces

She eventually was able to enrol in the medical laboratory assistant program at Camouson College in Victoria while still working. That training affirmed her desire to become a doctor. She graduated in 2020 and found a job in Kamloops. She is there now after spending time in the Shuswap.

Katedza wants to help alleviate the shortage in Canada of health-care practitioners, particularly physicians.

“I’d like to be a part of a system where everyone can access health care in a dignified way and who will be met with compassion when they walk through the door of any clinic or hospital.”

She would also like to provide a role model or mentor for others who have had similar experiences.

“You have to have that belief in yourself, and if you’re sure this is what you want to do, then go for it 100 per cent.

“I would like to be that kind of mentor for other people. ‘If you want to be a doctor, hell yeah, go and be a doctor.’ Someone to say yes.”

Katedza adds her appreciation for those who have supported her along the way.

“To you it might have seemed like something minor, but for me, on that day, it was huge, it was humongous… I’d like to thank all the people who have shown me a kindness.”





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