Three insights on migration: Jane, our Welfare Officer

The Scalabrini team works with migrants and refugees every day. With such deep expertise at hand, we take the opportunity to reflect on migration with them. This month we speak to Jane, manager of the Welfare Programme, who finds beauty in the productivity and resilience of her clients, despite the hardships they face.

1. It takes a migrant to truly understand migration
As a migrant herself, Jane understands the journeys that her clients have been through. ‘Being a migrant from another African country, I think clients feel that we can relate with them’, she says. ‘I think they feel more comfortable with me, because I understand what it means to leave your family.’

2. Working with migrants will teach you the true meaning of resilience
Although Jane’s job is to assist migrants and refugees, they too have lessons for her. ‘My clients teach me about resilience’, Jane explains. ‘They risk their lives, their families – and they don’t even know where they are going to. They just go.’ The Welfare Programme see a range of clients, from those in extremely vulnerable positions with multiple needs (such as sick, elderly and disabled clients in unstable living conditions) to those that need guidance on accessing services. The response provided by the team depends on the needs, once the client is assessed. Jane recalls a specific case that illustrates resilience. A woman approached the Welfare Programme in desperate need: she was sick, unable to speak English, and with nowhere to sleep that night. With the gradual assistance of her team, Jane watched the client bloom into the woman she is today – a successful business woman, running her own restaurant. ‘We have been on a journey with her, and she has shown us her courage and resilience.’

3. Migration is an opportunity, not a threat – and we need to shift our mindset
Having worked in the migration sector for a decade, Jane has developed expertise in working with vulnerable migrants. Simultaneously, Jane watches as the South African government restricts migration. ‘We need to start perceiving migration as an opportunity. There are so many migrants that are bringing productivity to South Africa. I see that as an opportunity, not as a threat.’ Jane appreciates the richness of migration; she sees it in her work every day. For her, harnessing the potential of migration in South Africa is a missed opportunity – that South Africa, and her people, are missing out on.

About the Welfare Programme
The Welfare Programme assists clients with various basic needs – from clothing to hospital access. The Welfare staff assess clients’ needs and finds a sustainable way to assist, encouraging the client’s independence. To find out more, or make a donation, please email, or call us on +27 (0)21 465 6433.

cape town volunteer manon womens platform

Manon – Women’s Platform volunteer

Manon’s studies have focused on peace building and conflict resolution, which has led her to work with refugees quite a bit. When it came time to find an internship, she was pointed in the direction of Scalabrini. Here she spent time with the Women’s Platform. Read more about her six months here. 

“I’ve grown up in Denhelder, Netherlands but moved around quite a bit, mostly for school. I moved to Amsterdam at 18 for my Bachelor’s in Anthropology, and then to Groningen for my first Masters, which focused on Religion, Conflict and Globalisation. After that, I moved to Malte for my second Masters, which I’m currently still pursuing in International Humanitarian Action. It’s a two year program, and the first year is split between Groningen and Malte, followed by half a year in Cape Town for this internship and then another six months back in the Netherlands for my thesis with the Red Cross. I was actually just accepted into that program this week, and I’m very excited!

“Facilitating personal development and Conversation Club was a bit challenging for me at first, but has helped me build a lot of confidence. These roles have also allowed for a lot of one-on-one interactions with women. I’ve loved getting to know them and learning about the importance of  empathy and compassion in the process.”

I chose to study Anthropology originally, because I loved the way it required me to talk to new people, study their cultures, and travel. I was doing a religious studies minor at the time as well, and started focusing a lot on Islam specifically, which is what led to my Master’s in Religion, Conflict, and Globalisation.

A lot of my studies focused on peace-building and conflict resolution,  and I worked with refugees quite a bit. I found this work fascinating and knew I wanted to get involved in humanitarian aid work, which brought me here, to Scalabrini.

While in Malte, my studies were guided by a focus on refugees and migration, and I posted that I was looking for an internship in the field on a Facebook group with students from our masters program. A German woman who’d worked at Scalabrini for several years recommended that I apply. This is my first time in South Africa, and I have really enjoyed it. I didn’t know what to expect, and only knew I was coming to Cape Town about a month before starting my internship. It was kind of spontaneous, but I love all the different cultures and people I’ve been introduced to; Cape Town has so much to offer!

I currently serve as a Women’s Platform intern. Through this role, I lead personal development workshops, facilitate the weekly Conversation Club, run information and registration sessions every other Tuesday, help Amy with administrative tasks like inputting new member information into Salesforce, and helping out with Saturday platform events. Facilitating personal development and Conversation Club was a bit challenging for me at first, but has helped me build a lot of confidence. While in university, I used to get really nervous before presenting, but now I’m very comfortable. These roles have also allowed for a lot of one-on-one interactions with women. I’ve loved getting to know them and learning about the importance of  empathy and compassion in the process.

Conversation Club with Natalie has been my favourite thing to be part of. Although it’s always a bit chaotic, I’ve loved getting to watch the women grow in confidence, and they really appreciate what we do. Last Wednesday, we had a reflection and they told us about how initially, they were nervous to talk and share, but now they’ve grown comfortable speaking out in front of the class. It’s nice to create this safe environment for them and feel like we contributed to that transition. My advice to future interns is to be open-minded towards the whole experience, and not just to see it as an opportunity to help others but also one for personal growth.

cape town volunteer jennifer basp wp eap

Jennifer – BASP, WP & EAP volunteer

Jennifer split her time here between Women’s Platform, BASP and the Employment Access Programme. She will be heading home to work on her thesis where she will be comparing South Africa’s migration system with Sweden’s. Read more about her time here at Scalabrini. 

“I’m originally from Norsjo, Sweden, and lived there until around the age of 15, when I moved to Skelleftea for high school. Now, I attend university in Umea, and I’m doing a three and a half year social work program. I’ve chosen to study social work because I knew I wanted to work with people and was thinking about going on to become a psychotherapist! I’m fascinated by how the mind and people work, so I feel like that could be an interesting career. Since coming to Scalabrini, though, I feel like sticking to social work makes more sense because it seems better suited to my personality. It’s more interactive and less pressure, which I really like. 

“I love Women’s Platform in particular because of how it works to uplift women and create a sense of community and opportunity for them.”

This is my second time in South Africa, and my first time was in November 2017 when I came for a field study. I was placed in a mixed children’s home called Heathersdale for 2 months, and although I liked it, this time around feels more real and like I’m actually living here rather than just visiting.

I felt like the differences between Sweden and South Africa were much more stark last time, and now I feel more rooted and comfortable. South Africa is very different from Sweden, and I think safety has been one of the big things for me. I also think Swedish social systems are better and more organised. I love the food here, though. My favourite is fried sushi- it’s amazing.

I came to Scalabrini through an organisation called African Sunrise. I needed an internship related to social work for my university program, and my role here is a mixture of EAP, Women’s Platform and BASP. I’m in EAP every Friday and for that I help with CV creation, doing phone calls to former clients and some administrative work like Salesforce. I’d say I’m evenly split between BASP and Women’s Platform. I love Women’s Platform in particular because of how it works to uplift women and create a sense of community and opportunity for them. Seeing them become able to support themselves is awesome. I do a lot of excel and organisational work with Women’s Platform, like editing on Canva, sorting papers and evaluating survey results to see how we can improve. With BASP, I mostly help out in the lab, but I also assist with smaller tasks like student printing, and yesterday I worked on updating the student progress wall!

I’ve learnt a lot since coming to Scalabrini. Some things I didn’t even realise, like how it’s improved my confidence level. I didn’t used to like making phone calls and talking to people as much as I do now, and I’ve also learned a lot about the migrant system and xenophobia in South Africa. This position has helped me grow professionally by giving me more of a sense of direction in terms of my future career, and I have really liked working in the NGO environment and feeling like I’m making a difference in people’s lives.

My favourite thing since coming here was being involved with the BASP election week. It was really awesome to see the students be creative and come up with cohort names and logos, and also just seeing them build relationships and bond with each other. After my role here ends, I’m going back to Sweden and writing my thesis with Fanny, where we’ll be comparing Sweden’s migration system to South Africa’s. Scalabrini has been so important in influencing our studies.

My advice to future interns is to be open to mixing it up. I’ve been able to meet so many more clients and learn a lot more about the work Scalabrini does through the versatility of my role, and it’s also prevented me from getting burnt out in one area. I’d also say be sure to ask all the questions you have and be open to learning and receiving new information.”