Winning the lottery changes people’s lives – sometimes for the better, and sometimes for the worse. North-West District Building & Grounds Worker Zerihun Odda believes that winning the Diversity Visa lottery from the United States in 2003 has changed his life for the better.
“Everybody wants to try to win the lottery and come to the United States,” said Odda. “If you work hard, it is the best place in the world.”
Born and raised in Addis, Ethiopia, Odda and his wife Member packed up and left Ethiopia for Minneapolis in 2004. Without U.S. certification for the work he had trained for at a telecom institute in Ethiopia, Odda began working part time in security at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. After getting full-time cleaning job at the airport, he had heard about similar positions at the U of M and began to inquire about them.
Hired in November 2005, Odda started out at the Rec Center/Cooke Hall, then moved to Moos Tower before starting his current job in the Lions Research Building. He believes that B &G workers provide a valuable service that sometimes goes unnoticed. Odda pointed out that the U would not be a very pleasant place if the buildings weren’t cleaned. With the amount of traffic the U of M receives, imagine leaving a building unmaintained for a month.
Odda’s efforts have not gone unnoticed, as he received the 2010 Gold Standard Award as the crew member from his team that most embodies excellent service and FM’s 3 C’s – Customer Focused, Culture of Accountability and Cost Effective.
“It will make me work even harder,” commented Odda on receiving the Gold Standard Award. “It has given me energy to try and win again.”
Odda met his wife at an orthodox Christian church in Addis while she was still in High School. As per cultural tradition, they waited until she graduated to start dating. The couple currently lives in the Cedar-Riverside area and has two sons, Nathan (5 years) and Abel (18 months). Member works part-time as cashier at the airport.
Living in the U.S. does have one downside. Odda has only been able to return to Ethiopia once to visit his parents, five brothers and four sisters. He does have a cousin that is a student in Minneapolis who is trying to transfer to the U from a community college.
While the diversity lottery may not have solved all of Zerihan Odda’s problems, it has provided him with a great opportunity to live, work and raise a family in Minneapolis.