Shreyas Gupta – All Rounder volunteer
Spending a few weeks at Scalabrini has been very interesting for Shreyas, especially in terms of helping him unpack his thoughts around his own immigrant status, living in the US. Shreyas was an All Rounder at Scalabrini. Read about his time here below.
“I’m originally from India, but I was born in South Africa and grew up in the US. Cape Town has been different for me in terms of personal exploration and growth, in the sense that I’m now at the age where I can be here without my parents and that supervision. On the city front, I think that maybe it’s the context of the work that I do, the people that I’m with or the programme that I’m in, I’ve become a lot more aware of some of the racial and class tensions. But, I have also really loved this city and all it has to offer. I always imagined Cape Town as a big city, but it is small, at least it is divided in a way which makes it feel small.
“You have to be quick on your feet in learning small tidbits of things and then deep dive when needed. Given the nature of that, I’ve been able to interact with so many different people and I think I’ve really taken that personally in the sense that it’s been really rewarding.”
What brought me to Scalabrini was generally the work around refugees and migration. I think the work is interesting in the sense that my parents are first generation immigrants, which has been more of a relevant conversation as I’ve gotten older. Also as the political climate continually progresses in the US and around the world, I’ve become much more aware of my immigrant status.
I only got my citizenship three years ago. So just understanding a lot more of what it means to be a citizen, what it means to be a permanent resident etc.
My current position here is an All Rounder, but I spent my first three weeks doing EAP (Employment Access Programme) work. I would say that I have worked in almost every division at Scalabrini besides the Women’s Platform and BASP. It’s been really cool to get a larger sense of the organisation, but also to have honed in exposure of EAP.
I think one of the most interesting things about the organisation is that it’s so dynamic, there are just things always moving. That has been an interesting learning curve, whatever is needed, you just have to adapt to. You have to be quick on your feet in learning small tidbits of things and then deep dive when needed. Given the nature of that, I’ve been able to interact with so many different people and I think I’ve really taken that personally in the sense that it’s been really rewarding.
I’ve learnt a lot. I think factually a lot about migration. I didn’t know a lot of the statistics and a lot of the issues migrants face. One of the biggest things that I have taken away, was from a meeting with Miranda, she said that Scalabrini’s overall mission was to create a perception of migration being an opportunity. I think that has been so true of what is being said in the media and the way people view refugees, it’s always viewed as a crisis and that is always how it’s been taught to me. Since being here, I’ve realised there are a lot of things that have been misinterpreted and misinformed. It’s been humbling to say the least, even if that sounds cliché. It’s been humbling to see people coming in so determined and put everything on the line to make a better life for themselves and their families.
I was helping one client make their CV and they were my age from Angola and in almost every single way he was similar to me, he moved here when he was three, he grew up here, had perfect English and is now an entrepreneur. I’ve done a lot of entrepreneurial work. I would have conversations with him like with someone back home. So it was interesting, because I was still having to help him, but he was highly capable. I had conversations with him and I learnt about him, he learnt about me, we shared something that I wouldn’t say everyone could have in common with someone. But again, the nature of the situation he was born into, we just had different upbringings, but to no fault of his own, obviously. I think that was really cool to have that connection.
Future plans are very up in the air. So if I can find a way of hopefully tying all my interests together, then that would be really rewarding. Lots of conversations to be had, but I think I’m getting a better sense of this meaningful work. This is important to me, and as I said my status as an immigrant, coming to terms with that and what it means.”