Alumni Q&A with Susanna Pressel
1. When did you volunteer with Jacari?
It was when I was an undergraduate way back in the 1960s.
2. Tell us about the activities you were involved in with Jacari
I didn’t tutor anyone. I’m not sure why – perhaps just because I didn’t have a bike at that time, so I didn’t know how I could get quickly from Somerville to East Oxford. I did however spend a month volunteering during one of my long vacations on a project organised by Dipak Nandy (father of Lisa Nandy) of the Runnymead Trust. It involved living with a kind Indian family in Southall, west London, and documenting cases of race discrimination. This was to provide evidence for planned new anti-discrimination legislation. We worked on employment, housing and services. The sort of thing we did was that a local Indian woman would apply for a low-level job by phone and was told that it had already been filled, and one of us applied immediately afterwards with much lower qualifications and was offered the job. We collected so much evidence that the new legislation was very strong.
3. Can you tell us the most vivid memory of your time as a Jacari volunteer?
I suppose my most vivid memory is of meeting the man I went on to marry – he was the secretary and then the chair of Jacari!
4. What are you doing now?
I’m now a Labour city and county councillor, still here in Oxford.
5. How has being a volunteer with Jacari influenced you later in life?
It confirmed me in a life-long concern about race and other forms of discrimination. We went to work in Zambia for 5 years after university, which was brilliant, and I’m of course able to pursue my concern in my current roles.