What does integration mean to you?

Here at Scalabrini, one of our main goals is the peaceful integration between migrants, refugees and citizens. Integration is not only about how hosts treat foreigners; it is about how migrants and refugees integrate themselves in different ways.

This womens month, we asked two women from Zimbabwe their thoughts.

Watch Stembile’s story, who sees her Daycare Creche as a central part of her integration within South Africa:

Watch Beatrice’s story as she reflects on integration in Cape Town:

Cape Town the impact of being an undocumented child

The impact of being an undocumented child

Did you know that, in international law, it is a child’s right to have a name, a nationality and immediate birth registration? South Africa is signatory to several international conventions that spell this out.* Here in South Africa, these rights are further enshrined in our Constitution, which confirms that all children in South Africa – regardless of nationality – have ‘the right to a name and a nationality from birth.’

The reality for some children, however, is very different. Regulations around birth registration in South Africa mean that children born to parents with expired documents and blocked or lost South African IDs cannot be issued a birth certificate. Watch this video and read this multi-organization press release to learn more.

But what does it actually mean for the child who does not hold a birth certificate? Here are just some of the impacts of being born an undocumented child.

1. Accessing services becomes increasingly difficult
Many schools in South Africa require that a learner produce a birth certificate to enroll at school. This seems to be an ever-stricter policy. Undocumented children without birth certificates cannot enroll in school and are denied their right to basic education. Parents with no recourse to documentation are caught in limbo as they are not able to document their child. Access to healthcare becomes increasingly difficult as the child gets older. Once the child becomes eighteen years of age, the child is liable to detention and/or deportation.

2. The child is at risk of statelessness
A stateless person is defined as ‘someone who is not considered as a national by any state under the operation of its law’. In other words, a stateless person has no recognised nationality. An undocumented child is not able to prove who they were born to, or where they were born. They are therefore at risk of statelessness. You can watch a short film on a young man affected by statelessness here.

3. The child does not exist on any state system.
It is in the interests of a state to record how many children are born within its borders. Those without birth certificates are not entered into national population registers. This also means that the child without a birth certificate is more likely to remain undetected in terms of care and protection services. It was even found that some social workers within a South African context can be reluctant to take on cases of undocumented foreign children – which might be in part due to the complex issues around being an undocumented child.

There are many more effects of being an undocumented child. If you want to learn more about the work Scalabrini does around foreign children, you can read more here. Should you require advice on an undocumented child, please contact Scalabrini or visit our Advocacy Team, from 9am – 12pm, Tuesdays – Fridays.

*The international conventions that include a child’s right to a name, nationality and birth registration are: the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Article 7), the 1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 24) and the 1999 African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (Article 6).

Cape Town Victoria Assenza Volunteer Story

Victoria Assenza: English School Volunteer

I’m from France and I’m studying political science at the University of Cape Town. I discovered Scalabrini while doing research for my thesis.
I am currently a volunteer at the English School where I help with administrative tasks in the office and teach English. On top of having gained a lot of experience with teaching, I have learned to work on various projects and to do all types of small and bigger jobs to assist the English school team.

Volunteering at Scalabrini has helped me grow professionally by allowing me to apply my knowledge and develop multiple new skills. On a personal level, this experience has helped me meet and work with a huge diversity of people, from the staff to the clients.

I got to learn more about other people as much as I got to learn about myself.

One of my most memorable moments working at the Scalabrini Centre was the end of the English term when we held a graduation ceremony. The closing of the term felt like an achievement for both the English school team and the clients where you can see that personal/friendly links have been built within the professional/strict environment of a school.

“Working with the Scalabrini team has been a real pleasure. I was given meaningful responsibilities and independence in my tasks. They have been more than welcoming and has trusted me to work on bigger projects with them.”

The orientation during the first week has also strongly helped me feel included to the larger team of the Scalabrini Centre as a whole.

Cape Town Willem Wapenaar Volunteer Story

Willem Wapenaar: Advocacy Volunteer

“I was born in Rotterdam in the Netherlands and grew up in a neighbourhood which was mixed. It was both very quiet but also only 15 min from the city centre by bike and was inhabited by people of diverse socioeconomic status. This made my upbringing very pleasant as I feel I can talk to anyone without feeling too estranged. I studied law and came to South Africa to experience living abroad and gain work experience as an advocacy intern. The choice to work for refugees was mainly from an interest point, which works out well at Scalabrini since I get to work closely with clients.

Though my time volunteering in the Advocacy programme I realised that my understanding of South African Refugee law and the procedures was at a minimum. Due to the complexities of the Department of Home Affairs I had to adjust to this and try my best to make some sense of it.

“Professionally, Scalabrini has taught me that I can work hard and have fun at the same time and that good work comes with a heart for the job. By meeting people from all over Africa on a daily basis, I have grown and found out so much more about the world than I knew before.”

The most memorable aspect of the job will be the stories that I have heard from clients which, simultaneously keep me going and keep me up at night. In reflecting on my experiences here, my major hopes are that there will be more fairness in the procedure and that our clients will integrate and make friends with the locals. While I’m unsure of my future plans, after working at Scalabrini I will return to the Netherlands where I will finish my studies and be together with my girlfriend.”

Cape Town Ruda Herselman Volunteer Story

Ruda Herselman: Advocacy Volunteer

“I am from Johannesburg, South Africa, and I have just finished my undergraduate in Law. A friend referred me to Scalabrini. I was looking for a job and they asked me to think about Human Rights Law and Advocacy. I came to a Women’s Platform event and I loved it.

I work in the Advocacy programme, in a typical day… well, first things first . . . coffee! Tuesday to Friday I do client intakes. It’s my favourite part, I love working with them, although I have to ask for help every five minutes I always have support when i need it. In the afternoons, I follow up on client issues and work on other projects such as the Birth Registration project.

What I’ve learned since joining the Scalabrini Centre is compassion. I was unaware of the depth of compassion that I could feel for other people.

During our orientation, they told us about self-care, and I just had no idea of the emotional depth of that experience. Personally, working at Scalabrini has helped me work with people on an emotional level, which is something I’ve never done before. Professionally, it’s broadened my horizons to look at new potential career paths. 6 months ago, I would have laughed if you’d told me that I’d be working at an NGO . . . now it’s a path I might go down.

My hope for Scalabrini clients is that they are able to find a little bit of hope. I see a lot of hopelessness. If we can give just a little bit of hope, we can keep the human spirit alive.”

Cape Town Leensa Ghenetti Volunteer Story

Leensa Ghenetti: Communications and Women’s Platform Volunteer

“I come from the Netherlands and Ethiopia but have spent the majority of my life living in New York. Coming from a mixed background, I have always been interested in issues relating to integration and multiculturalism. I’m currently pursuing a degree in political science at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.

Within my studies I have become quite interested in the institution of democracy and how it functions in different countries as well and the prevalence of vote buying and clientelistic behavior. I was first drawn to South Africa’s unique political climate which lead me to spend a semester studying at UCT, last August. During this period of time I met many inspiring people and was exposed to the diverse problems that are prevalent in a society in transition. One of these problems being that of discrimination against migrants and refugees and barriers to integrating.

“Having greatly enjoyed my time in Cape Town and inspired by what I had learned through my past experiences here, I couldn’t resist coming back and working for Scalabrini as a communications intern…”

On a day to day basis I work on finding compelling articles to share, interviewing and writing human interest pieces and documenting different evens. While I simultaneously assist as needed with various tasks in the office. I’ve enjoyed the dynamic work environment and having the ability to access and see the many different moving parts of Scalabrini….My future plans involve getting a masters degree, possibly in political communication or international development ”

Cape Town Kethlyn Gayatiri Volunteer Story

Kethlyn Gayatiri: Employment Access Volunteer

“As strange as it may sound, I wound picking Africa as my destination for my Summer break, on a random day in Law School. I simply spun the globe and planted my finger on it, and before I knew it, I was on a plane to South Africa. To psych myself up for the trip, I began searching for NGOs to work with, and I felt like Scalabrini was a perfect fit for me. I was an all-rounder intern, but I wound up sticking with the Employment Access Programme, where I work at the Employment Help Desk, or conduct Job Readiness and Digital Literacy workshops for our clients. A working day at the desk is hectic, where I meet between 4 to 10pm clients to design CVs for them and apply jobs for them. Apart from that, I also interact with the clients, and together with the EAP team, we find ways in which we can assist the clients in terms of his/ her professional development, career and training.

Despite being a first-timer in S.A, it felt almost at home. It could be because South Africa was a country that was often discussed in my Human Rights class, but I am sure the warm hospitality, and amazing food are other reasons why I settled so quickly in S.A. I do have to admit, that S.A is very different from my home country, Singapore. Singapore is very much of a “concrete” jungle where we are surrounded by high-rise buildings all of the time. Fast-paced, efficient, and very expensive! The pace of the work environment, and how everything moved was something I needed to adapt to. It reminded me to take it slow, and smell the roses. Given how South Africa is filled with Mother Nature’s wonders, it then gives me the perfect opportunities to appreciate all that South Africa had to offer. I fell in love with the mountains, the sea, the food, the music, the art scene, the languages, and the culture.

The major highlight was receiving emails and cards from clients as a form of appreciation for the work that we do for them. It can be an exhausting task to meet clients after clients, and put out fire with them as we listen to their problems, struggles and obstacles, and try to find ways to help them. Thus, receiving appreciative notes reassures and motivates us to hang in there.
It is going to be bittersweet to bid farewell to Scalabrini, more specifically, to the EAP and the Womens’ Platform. I would not have been enjoying, in fact, looking forward to work every day. 

“All of you have a heart of Gold, and the team reminds me every day of how important it is to keep the passion alive, and to not be afraid to pursue my goals and dreams. I hope that the clients too feel the same energy when they meet us, because they are amazing individuals too, and they just need the right opportunity to prosper.”

Lucy Arnold: Communications Volunteer

Home for me is the rainy but beautiful region of Seattle in the American Pacific Northwest, where I love hiking and trail running whenever I can. I am currently an undergraduate at Stanford University in California, where I am studying interdisciplinary environmental science and human rights.
The past few months that I have spent in Cape Town mark the first time I have lived abroad, and being here through the water crisis and so much political change has been absolutely fascinating. In general, I have found Cape Town to be an extremely vibrant city and a place where I have reflected more deeply on my identity than anywhere else. I found Scalabrini through its connections to the Stanford study abroad program I am part of, and I have been so excited to work here and be surrounded by the activities of a refugee rights NGO.

Over the past couple months, I have been the communications volunteer, tasked with developing social media content, writing articles, helping cover events, and more. Most days, my work involves interacting with different types of media, writing social media posts and articles catered to different audiences, and researching for new rounds of content. Working at Scalabrini, I have learned the importance of flexibility, patience, and tenacity.

“Being at Scalabrini is also a very humbling experience – though I rarely interacted with clients in my work, I was always surrounded by colleagues who are deeply committed to what they do and clients whose stories show incredible resilience in the face of adversity.”

Moving on from Scalabrini, I am going to continue working toward my bachelors degree. After that, I am interested in pursuing law school, masters work, a PhD, or some combination. I hope to one day pursue a career at the intersection of environmental sustainability and human rights.

Simone Adler: Advocacy Volunteer

As a Jewish person, I am embedded with an ancestral heritage of ‘migration’. From a small shtetl in Poland, Lithuania, Russia and Belgium, I am a product of movement. Working as an English teacher in South Korea further connected me to these concepts of ‘migration’ and ‘foreign’.
These experiences, as well as my background as a UCT BA LLB (bachelor of law) graduate, have drawn me towards international migration issues and subsequently Scalabrini, where I volunteer in the Advocacy programme.

“It is in this position that I consistently question and acknowledge my power, roles and responsibilities through the depth and breadth of the world that is the ‘Department of Home Affairs’, ‘Education Departments’, ‘Principles’, ‘investigators’, ‘prosecutors’ and all those ‘others’ who have certain powers over the lives and conditions of the clients that appear before me.”

My clients have limited capacity to realize the full enjoyment of their rights, to gain access to the documents they need to work, to renew their permits, to ensure their children attend school, to appeal against rejections of their refugee status — the list goes on and on.

At Scalabrini, we have some power to challenge powerful actors in society and government. We also have the ability to advocate around legislation and policy. While we may be part of a small NGO, we are big in our pursuit of justice and equality.

What I will remember of my experiences here are the people, their faces and their stories. I will especially remember the children who were struggling to be admitted into schools, clients who faced detention, and those whose refugee statuses had been withdrawn or limited. Scalabrini is a part of my journey and aspiration to further pursue Human Rights Law.

Cape Town Jeanette Client Story

Jeanette: Empowering Women through Sewing

Zenzeleni Zenzeleni

We follow the story of Jeanette, whose business, Zenzeleni Zenzeleni, is growing and thriving thanks to the assistance of Womens Platform.

The Women’s Platform at Scalabrini seeks to empower women and share valuable skills whether it’s personal development skills, business savviness or vocational training. Through these opportunities, a vast network of incredible women has been constructed. Many come back to gain more skills or help their peers. The Women Platform’s small business course helps women grow their small businesses.

Every few days, Jeanette can be seen in the offices of Scalabrini, laying different fabrics down on a desk or showcasing her latest creations for various people in the office. Her backpacks, pants and shirts feature bright blocks of patterns, perfectly sewn together. Sewing is a new skill, which has become more than a simple past time activity. Jeanette’s sewing came out of her journey as a refugee, fleeing from Rwanda to Cape Town.

Jeanette has been in South Africa for thirteen years after fleeing Rwanda in 2005. “I had to escape the violence there was still political unrest and did not feel safe. I first fled to Malawi and then from I made the trek to Cape Town, following my aunt’s advice who had been there before. “Jeanette was drawn to Cape Town’s multicultural and “cosmopolitan” environment. “I felt it was the best place for me to go that was safe and offered opportunities. I have built a life here with my husband and two children, aged three and nine, who were born here.”

“I had to escape the violence there was still political unrest and did not feel safe. I first fled to Malawi and then from I made the trek to Cape Town, following my aunt’s advice who had been there before. “

“When I first arrived I started working in a corner shop. In the following years I could see there was no potential and the job would not lead me anywhere. It left me uninspired and unsure of how to move forward.” In 2013, Jeanette resigned. “After I left that job, I spent my time at home taking care of the house and children – but I knew I could do more. It was then that a friend challenged me to learn sewing and make something of my life. Even though I didn’t like it at first, she would wake me up early and make me learn.”

Jeanette explains that her negative attitude towards sewing was from her preconceptions back in Rwanda. “At home people in this (sewing) job never grow…so when this lady introduced it i was really angry, I thought ‘why are you introducing me to something where I’ll never grow?’ But as time went on, I began to enjoy it and saw the business opportunity.”

“I pushed myself to learn how to sew from YouTube, not wanting to ask for help and as a way to prove myself. I then started to sell my small creations.” When asked about the impact of sewing, Jeanette says it “changed my life from sleeping and crying to someone who can wake up in the morning and say ‘I can do this’.”

In 2016, Jeanette decided to pursue a teaching training at CPUT. “I didn’t have money to afford the class books, so I started selling my pencil cases to my classmates. These became so popular that at some point the Head of Department stood in front of the class, looked out at the students and asked ,’where did all of you get your pencil cases?’ She then allowed me to use the space at CPUT to give sewing lessons. At first I started giving lessons free of charge to high school students and at a cheap price for women”. In trying to expand her sewing business, Jeanette came across Scalabrini. Jeanette came into the office looking for help in finding a marketplace where she could sell her products. She was directed to the Women’s Platform. As part of Women’s Platform intake, women must take a compulsory Personal Development course.

The personal development course aims to enhance women’s self-awareness and the sense of self as a resource while improving personal development skills, such as effective communication, goal setting, conflict resolution, and job-seeking skills. “Looking back at the experience, it taught me to value my own opinion and value myself. It gave me confidence and more inspiration for my business.”

Following the course, Jeanette attended an information session where she learnt about the small business course that was also offered to women. “This is what I needed to make my business grow so I signed up as soon as I could. The Women’s Platform also connected me to a network of people to befriend and sell to, so I wanted to use all the opportunities to grow myself, my business and my network.”

“This is what I needed to make my business grow so I signed up as soon as I could. The Women’s Platform also connected me to a network of people to befriend and sell to, so I wanted to use all the opportunities to grow myself, my business and my network.”

The small business course teaches a variety of skills including bookkeeping and budgeting. “Before this course, I relied on my intuition to stay in check. The skills I learnt on the course were so good, I could implement them into my business immediately.”

With her new Facebook page, Zenzeleni Zenzeleni (which means do it for yourself), Jeanette is excited for the future. “I am now advertising my products on Facebook and running my sewing course every Saturday at CPUT. The aim of my business is not just about myself. I want to give back and create opportunities for others. We are a community upliftment programme, we empower women to learn sewing skills in order for them to use those skills to make profit and be able to feed their families.”

Small businesses like Jeanette’s Zenzeleni Zenzeleni contribute to the South African economy and help create more jobs. Jeanette’s business is contributing to the economy by empowering both migrants and South Africans through her classes, allowing everyone to learn sewing. Even at this point where she is fairly independent, Jeanette still receives support and guidance from Womens’ Platform team, who are teaching her different tools to expand her business including social media and making business cards.

“Women’s platform has become such an important part of my life now. I felt alone at times, but now I have the friendship and support I need to make it in this country. While I am not sure what the future holds, for now I am able to focus on my business, grow it and give others the opportunity to learn this life longs skills. I would not be able to do this without the support of Scalabrini and the Womens Platform.”