Buffalonian of the Week: Gabriel Shalamba of Journey’s End Services
Gabriel Shalamba is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and came to Buffalo in 2005. Since then, he has worked in various roles at Journey’s End Refugee Services, Inc, an organization in Buffalo. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
KN: Did you come directly from the DRC to Buffalo?
GS: No, I came from Mozambique to Buffalo. I lived in Mozambique [for] only one year. In Mozambique, I lived in a refugee camp.
KN: Did you come through Journey’s End to Buffalo?
GS: I came through Catholic Charities. And after that, when I came to Catholic Charities, I started to volunteer with [the organization], and in 2006, I started volunteering with Journey’s End, and in 2007, I was hired at Journey’s End, as a case manager. And I worked for almost 2 years as case manager, and after that I became a donation coordinator. Then for three years I was interpreting for people. And after that, I changed positions again (to) case manager, and after couple months I switched [to an] employment specialist.
There was one lady who had a master’s degree in social work, and she liked to work as a case manager [and was] working in the employment department. And I decided I could trade or switch position with her. That would be in 2009, so 2009, 2010, I start [working in] employment. And after [working as an] employment specialist, I was promoted as the lead employment specialist. And after becoming lead employment specialist, I was promoted to be lead BRIA (Bureau of Refugee and Immigration Affairs) services coordinator. That is the position I am working in until now.
KN: What does your job involve?
GS: It is to do job development, [it means] talking with companies, owners, employers, presenting them our program, what we do, and what we do to support the refugees. And after that when they have any new [positions] they call us, and we prepare our client with a resume and job class. We teach them where to go and how to do the interview, and we make sure they understand the question they will ask and be ready. And after they get a job we make sure to teach them where to go and where to get the bus.
KN: You are involved with a soccer team?
Yeah, the Congolese team called Great Lakes. And I am the coach of that team. We play every year. Because I volunteer at [ the Delaware Soccer Club], I teach kids soccer, and my kids play in that club. I coach the [Great Lakes Africa team], [and right] now we are playing in the BDL, the Buffalo District League. And I make sure that it’s not only Congolese, even within that team we have people from Rwanda, from Burundi, and from Congo who play in that team.
KN: You played soccer?
I coach and I play soccer. I play mid or defense. And my kids too, they play. One of my sons, my oldest son, he’s good mid, and he’s good defense. He plays very well.
KN: Do you have an international team you support?
Yeah. I support Manchester United. I don’t usually support the team, I support the coach. I like [Jose] Mourinho; anywhere Mourinho goes I support that team.
KN: How many kids do you have?
I have three kids, and another one is on his way. He is coming probably in September. We will have a new boy in the family. All of them, they are boys.
KN: How old are your three boys?
My first one is nine, and my second is eight, and the youngest one is six.
KN: What is your favorite thing about Buffalo?
I like the city because it is welcoming everybody. And people in Buffalo, they are welcoming [to everyone coming to] Buffalo. And housing is a little bit cheaper than other places in the state.
KN: What has been the hardest thing about moving to Buffalo?
The hardest thing is just when you don’t speak English, and you don’t have a license for driving. That’s the hardest thing. And another thing is, don’t move if you don’t know that you have any job here. Because some people, they just move because other people move. Wherever you live in the United States you can make a life, if you have a good job and can make money. But you cannot go living in expensive places and know that you don’t make that much money.