Cape Town Lucien Client Story

Lucien: Rebuilding a family through Welfare

After seeking asylum in South Africa in 2009, Lucien needed support and guidance to rebuild his life in South Africa. We take a look at Lucien’s journey with the Scalabrini Welfare programme and how this has helped him rebuild his family.

Leaving family behind in DRC

Lucien grew up in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In 2009, when the country was politically unstable, Lucien was forced to leave and seek refuge in South Africa. “For safety reasons I needed to leave my wife and two children and come first,” he explains.

In 2013, Lucien was reunited with his family in South Africa. Family reunification is a joyous occasion – but comes with challenges too. “We had been apart for so long and although I was in regular contact, we needed to rebuild our family from the beginning,” he says. “My children were older. I needed to get to know them again and rebuild my relationship with my wife.”

Lucien admits that he became quite dominating in his family. “I would get upset easily and sometimes became bitter and resentful. This had a negative effect on my relationship with my wife and children.”

“We had been apart for so long and although I was in regular contact, we needed to rebuild our family from the beginning,”

Re-building a family through Welfare

In 2018, the Welfare Team at Scalabrini decided to pilot a parental skills programme with a men’s group. The parental skills program, in partnership with Salesian Life Choices, helps clients to strengthen family units. A strong family forms an important base for migrants and refugees trying to integrate in South Africa. Lucien was invited to join.

Reflecting on the men’s parenting programme, Lucien explains that “the course offered a safe place to reflect and share my experiences with others. I was able to reflect on my own parenting style and realise what wasn’t working. I now choose a more positive, collaborative style of engaging with my family, which I hadn’t known about before.”

After each session, Lucien sat with his family and went through the course notes. “We started to work more together as a team. As I changed, the family changed with me.” He even jokes and says “sometimes if I go back to my old way my children and wife remind me by pointing to the ‘No Put-Down Zone’ poster we were given in our first session.”

Lucien feels that has made the most of the opportunities provided to him. “Scalabrini has become like my second home. I know I will always get the support I need and be guided towards standing on my own. If you are willing to put the effort in, the rewards can be huge. For me, the reward has been rebuilding my family.”

“I was able to reflect on my own parenting style and realise what wasn’t working. I now choose a more positive, collaborative style of engaging with my family, which I hadn’t known about before.”

The Stateless Poet: Our New Video

How many times have you been asked where you are from? It’s a common question – and it is usually easy to answer. For some of our clients, it is the most difficult question of all.

Watch our new video, made in partnership with B-Yond TV here.

What’s the problem?

The Scalabrini Advocacy Programme works with several cases of individuals who are at risk of statelessness. A stateless person is someone who is not considered as a national by any state under the operation of its law. In other words, they have no nationality at all.
The effect of statelessness on youth is particularly devastating.

What’s the solution?
At Scalabrini, the Advocacy Programme assists individuals to establish their nationality through family tracing and visiting consulates. If it is established that an individual is stateless, there are applications that can be made to the Department of Home Affairs, but oftentimes this requires further legal assistance. Within South African citizenship and immigration law, some aspects speak to statelessness. If the Department of Home Affairs had a greater capacity to respond and process such applications, great headway could be made to address the issue of statelessness sin South Africa. Furthermore, if the South African government became signatories to the two international statelessness conventions, mechanisms could be put in place to deal with stateless persons and ensure their protection. We advocate that the South African government address the issue of statelessness within its borders. Indeed, groups of undocumented people are not conducive to a functioning state. Statelessness is therefore not only a problem for the individuals involved, but an issue the South African state has an interest in resolving.

Want to take action?
Share our video about Raibyah here!
Sign the petition to end statelessness in South Africa here.
If you have any questions pertaining to Scalabrini’s work on statelessness, please email

Cape Town Lee-Ann Assalone Volunteer Story

Lee-Ann Assalone: Women’s Platform Volunteer

Lee-Ann originally from Bloomington, Indiana volunteered with Women’s Platform for a total of 9 months. Here she reflects on her experience.

“I had never been to Cape Town before but was drawn to the place because Of its natural beauty and I knew I could learn a lot from its history and sociocultural dynamics. This city is rich with diversity and i adjusted with some difficulty but great rewards. From the minute I walked in the door of Scalabrini, amongst the hussle and bustle of clients I was put at ease by Asha’s kind welcome, and warmth from the rest of the staff.

Volunteering for such a long period of time gave me the unique opportunity to integrate into the fabric of the organisation and develop meaningful bonds with the women that I had the privilege to work alongside. My highlights were definitely collaborating on events for the Women’s Platform team, and seeing the women’s pride upon graduating from Personal Development and Sector training.

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work alongside such a talented and committed group of people, clients, volunteers and staff alike. I think one of the greatest gifts that volunteering at Scalabrini Centre offers is the opportunity to learn from people coming from all different cultures and contexts across the globe.

To do so opens the door to better understand your own perspective, including the historical and geopolitical events that inform it. Bringing these voices together to see a project through or plan an event, witnessing a client grow in confidence and ability, observing women supporting one another, all did a lot to shore up my faith in people’s ability to work together to create something bigger than any one individual or cultural perspective could accomplish.

“The most rewarding part was seeing the women build relationships with each other, have a place to strengthen their own voice and then the joy and confidence that grows with that. Personally, being part of such a dedicated team pushed and grew me as a person. I will take back many skills and fond memories from my time at Scalabrini.”

Cape Town Anika Christofferson Volunteer Story

Anika Christofferson: EAP and BASP Volunteer

Anika is from Seattle, Washington and is studying medicine. She first heard about Scalabrini through her University’s study abroad program and volunteered with Scalabrini for 3 months in the Employment Access Programme and the Bachelor Support Programme.

“I’m passionate about engaging with people and Scalabrini offered a way to engage with people directly. I’m volunteering with two different programs, the Employment Access Program and the Bachelor Academic Support Program. I start at 08h30 searching for jobs and assisting clients with CVs and Job Applications and then in the afternoons, I help out with the Bachelor Academic Support Program, mentoring students and helping out with their projects.

I’ve learned so much about teaching adults, as well as about communication across language barriers.

“Through the Employment Access Program, I’ve found out a lot about the career climate of South Africa and I’ve become quite confident in career building. I’ve also learned to be able to be present and to isolate my emotions from my work, to make myself more available to clients – I think this will be really helpful working in medicine.”

Cape Town is geographically similar to home, with the mountains, but Cape Town is higher energy than Seattle. Seattle is progressive, but Cape Town has a greater activism scene. There are a lot of demonstrations in Seattle, but here, activism is something you’d put on your CV – it’s part of the everyday conversation which is amazing to experience.”

Cape Town Enrica Fitzgerald Volunteer Story

Enrica Fitzgerald: EAP and Accounting Volunteer

Origionally from Nassau, in the Bahamas, Enrica has a degree in Accounting and Sociology from Saint Mary’s in Canada. She came to Cape Town in July and was doing an accounting internship but then got referred to Scalabrini by Bridging Gaps. This is her experience.

“In my time at Scalabrini I volunteered with the Employment Access programme and also had the opportunity to assist with the organization’s accounting systems. Through my experience I gained a deeper insight into political and economic climate, and to be honest, I didn’t really realize there were so many African Refugees.

The Western Media doesn’t focus on African issues and it isn’t highlighted by the media. Another thing is that I learnt how to relate to people better. I can get a point across and make someone feel comfortable even across a language barrier.

I’ve been surprised at the number of older people who weren’t able to finish school. It’s been a real eye-opener. Also, so many people have degrees which are credible, but they’re just not credible here. Qualified people aren’t able to work.

“My one wish for clients here is that they don’t lose hope – this process is frustrating.”

We all have a connection to home and I hope that Scalabrini clients can make the best of a difficult situation and find a home here. I loved Cape Town. It’s beautiful! I’m met smart and conscious people who are friendly and helpful all the time. And we don’t have a mountain back home so that has been a real highlight for me!”

Cape Town Clara Coetzee Volunteer Story

Clara Coetzee: All-rounder Volunteer

Clara is currently volunteering at Scalabrini as an All Rounder, read about her experience and the different aspects she has been able to get involved in at the centre!

I’m from Pretoria, South Africa, and I’m studying Statistics and Applied Math at UCT. I came to Scalabrini because I was looking for something worthwhile to do in my spare time. As an all-rounder, I’ve spent some time with the Employment Access Program and also the English School. At the moment, every day I teach English classes or Microsoft Excel.

“Since starting at Scalabrini, I’ve learned and improved my communication skills, as well as how to be assertive and finding the balance between being assertive and helping people.”

I’ve learned a lot about the hurdles that skilled professionals face when coming to South Africa and the importance of being able to communicate in English, especially within a professional environment. Personally, I’ve learned not only to work with a large number of different people, which is something to get used to, but also to connect with a people from a variety of backgrounds, with different language levels and then how to navigate that.

One day, a woman at EAP came to the help desk and she had a law degree.

I found out that the Bertha Foundation were looking for candidates for a translation conference with legal backgrounds or backgrounds in activism. I suggested she apply and she was successful! I’ve really enjoyed living in Cape Town it’s a lot livelier than Pretoria and a lot more interesting.

Cape Town Jean-Louise Olivier Volunteer Story

Jean-Louise Olivier: Advocacy Volunteer

Hear from Jean-Louise, one of our current Advocacy volunteers, about how her experience is going!

“I was born in South Africa, but I grew up and studied in Australia. I studied development studies, with a focus on refugees, asylum seekers, and gender equality. I did a semester exchange at UCT and I wanted to come back to Cape Town after so I did a lot of research and found Scalabrini, and I applied to be an advocacy intern.

Tuesdays to Fridays I do client intake in the mornings – that’s my favourite part. In the afternoons, I do research, and work on press reviews or small parts of submissions, or I do client follow-ups. I’ve learned so much. My previous internships haven’t been as hands-on or as full-time – at Scalabrini, you’re constantly in it and learning.

I’ve gained a lot of professionalism and confidence in this field. One of my favourite moments was when one of my clients was fired and his boss was refusing to pay him. There was a court order from the Department of Labour, and so I kept pestering the boss until eventually he paid. My client phoned me and he was so happy – he was able to pay his rent and for a course that he wanted to take. I hope to keep working in the field with refugees, and with clients specifically, I don’t want to be behind a desk.”

When we asked what Jean-Louis hoped for clients at Scalabrini she said, “I hope that the clients of Scalabrini can feel included in South Africa and that they are able to identify as whatever they want to. I hope that people accept them, and they don’t exploit or harm them.

“Working with refugees is very rewarding. I would recommend it.”