Meet Kishori Opatha:
Kishori Opatha is a U of G Anthropology Alumni, having graduated in June 2021. She reminisces on her Catalyst trip to Mississippi as the highlight of her 4 years at U of G. In this Catalyst experience, Kishori learned about the history of the Civil Rights Movement, racism and the intersectionality of poverty and race in the United States. Kishori tells us about her Catalyst experience, her biggest takeaways, what she’s doing now in role as Volunteer and Events Coordinator for the Donkey Sanctuary of Canada, and how her Catalyst experience has helped shape the way she works and learns today.
Why did you join Catalyst? How did you hear about it?
“I joined Catalyst after hearing about it from a friend who did Catalyst the year before! She absolutely loved her experience and recommended it to me and I'm so glad that I took her word on it because it truly lived up to all the great things she said about Catalyst.”
What did you do in Catalyst?
“My Catalyst program was a one week trip to Mississippi where we learned about the history of the Civil Rights Movement, racism, and the intersectionality of poverty and race in the United States. Through local discussions with expert speakers in Guelph such as visiting the Guelph Black Heritage Society, visiting museums, lectures in the University of Southern Mississippi, and working directly with community organizations in Hattiesburg, we were able to fully immerse ourselves in the program both in Guelph and in Mississippi.”
What was your biggest takeaway from Catalyst?
“My biggest takeaway from Catalyst was that however much you may think you know about a topic, there is always room to learn more. My Catalyst experience was to Mississippi where we learned about the intersection of poverty and race in America. We learned about the history of racism and how it presents itself today. I also truly learned the important of valuing someone's lived experience when it comes to educating oneself on social issues. Everything I knew about the Civil Rights Movement in America was mostly through textbooks and having the ability to hear the accounts of folks who lived through it genuinely changed the way I looked at the history of racism.”
What do you think the importance of the Catalyst program is?
“I would recommend joining Catalyst to all students! It not only helps you meet likeminded individuals and create new friendships, but it also helps provide a hands-on approach to learning about various issues that you may have only learned about in an academic setting. I made some amazing memories and great friends that I probably would have never met without Catalyst! It was the highlight of my university experience.”
What skills or knowledge did you gain through the program?
“This experience taught me how to actively engage as a participant in the various meetings, workshops, lectures, and visits that we had during our Catalyst journey. I learned how to make the most out of what I was learning as it truly was a once in a lifetime experience. I continue to take these skills that I harboured on this trip with me to this day.”
What are you doing now? Did the skills & knowledge you gained in Catalyst help you to get there, or help inform how you work?
“I currently work as a Volunteer and Events Coordinator for the Donkey Sanctuary of Canada. Ever since I was young, I have always been passionate about animal welfare. In my Catalyst experience, I learned how important it was to be an active participant when it comes to learning about various social issues. Although I'm passionate about animal welfare there are always new things for me to learn and going into a job that specifically focused on equine welfare helped me to practice the active engagement skills I developed during my Catalyst experience.”
What would your advice be for current U of G Students?
“I advise all U of G students to sign themselves up for a Catalyst program! In the beginning, I was nervous because I did not know anyone else. I came out of this experience with no regrets, I created friendships with other students, and made memories that I still value and cherish. Catalyst is a great way to put yourself out there and to truly engage in an issue that you're interested in!”