Born and raised in Pune, India, Alicia shared the cosmopolitan city near Mumbai with eight million people, many drawn to its colleges and universities.
“My family lived in an apartment complex with people from diverse cultural backgrounds but there was a massive slum next door,’’ she says.
Amidst the chaos of open drains, shops, shanties and overcrowded alleyways, many thousands of people lived and worked.
“I had quite a protected childhood but the slum community was always at the back of my mind,’’ says Alicia, who migrated to Adelaide in 2014.
“You could walk to it along the railway line and we would pass it on the way to school.
“It grew bigger and bigger over the years as more people came from rural areas and families got larger.’’
It was in the sprawling slum’s squalor that Alicia began her working life years later when, backed by a clinical psychology degree, she joined a non-profit focused on empowering women and nurturing children’s wellbeing through learning.
“Poverty is the same everywhere, it’s just quite glaring in India because we don’t have a system that looks after disadvantaged people, so it really hits you and it’s quite confronting,” she says.
“I think I realised very early how important trust is in building quality relationships within a community and I needed to be patient in doing this.
“For me what was really powerful was tracking resilience. These were kids that did not have much at all and yet they were at the learning centre every day, bathed and with food, giving it their best.
“There was significant domestic violence but the women were amazing. Here were mothers that had been abused the night before but they still got their children to school and ready in the morning because they wanted so much for them to have a better life and an education.
“When I go back home now and walk down that street, I come across a few families I knew. I don’t keep in touch with them on a regular basis but I often wonder where they are, what they’re doing.’’
At 27 and feeling professionally stifled in India, Alicia migrated to South Australia and joined Centacare, first working on the Bilby Bus and later with mothers experiencing pre and post-natal depression and anxiety, as part of the Making Moments attachment program.
Alicia credits these roles for teaching her about diversity within cultures, and reminding her of the importance of building trust in order to support others – whether in the slum, an outdoor play setting working with vulnerable families, or in a young mum’s home.
Currently a Training and Review officer with Centacare’s Foster Care program, Alicia’s role involves training new applicants and existing foster carers.
“I enjoy listening to the motivations of people wanting to become foster carers and their commitment to the role; it’s a hard job and it’s amazing to be part of that journey.
“I also think it’s extremely important that we continue to work hard in finding family-based care for children. They truly deserve to have safe and nurturing adults in order for them to grow, learn and increase their sense of self-worth. Hopefully they can be reunified with their birth families if safe to do so.
“It’s a program that’s evolving and growing. We are a multicultural team too, so we all have different perspectives and I thrive in an environment like that.
“It shows a commitment to Centacare’s inclusivity and diversity.’’
For more information about foster care, please phone Centacare on 8159 1400 or email firstname.lastname@example.orgJump to next article