volunteer employment access programme

Carley Cook – EAP volunteer

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“I was born and raised in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and I ended up going out-of-state for college, and currently attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. My parents were super supportive of me going to school there because they actually met in North Carolina, so it was one of those “full-circle” kinds of experiences. I’m studying psychology and political science at school, and ended up here in Cape Town through my study-abroad program.

This is my first time in South Africa. It’s been, to put it simply, jarring and beautiful and exhausting and exciting. I’ve only ever lived in New Mexico and North Carolina, so being here almost feels like I’m in a time warp. South Africa is not that far removed from its apartheid past, and at times, that reality it glaringly apparent. Oppression is more visible here than anywhere else I’ve been, and it’s shocking and frustrating.

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“I’ve learned too much to put into a sentence. People are more resilient than I ever thought possible; my clients are kind and patient and gracious and carry themselves with honour even though the world seems to be against them.”

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I’ve loved my time at Scalabrini. I’ve learned too much to put into a sentence. People are more resilient than I ever thought possible; my clients are kind and patient and gracious and carry themselves with honour even though the world seems to be against them. I’m so grateful to feel like I’m having a tangible contribution here rather than just sitting back and taking up space, which happens a lot at mid-college level intern roles.

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Because of this experience, I know I want to do something in law and social justice, but I’m still not sure what form that will take. I could see myself working for innocence project, a non-profit in the US that works to exonerate the wrongfully convicted through DNA testing and more generally promotes criminal justice reform, but I’m also really passionate about the issue of domestic violence. Being at Scalabrini has definitely helped me feel comfortable working in a nonprofit setting, which has been great.

The most impactful moment I’ve had here was actually quite emotionally challenging. Did you know you have to have a phone to create a google account? Well, I was working with a client one day and was already frustrated because I couldn’t find the job postings he’d come in intending to apply for, and he’d already been waiting for a while so it was really frazzling for me. Eventually, I found one of them, but he didn’t have an email and, we discovered, you need a valid phone number to make one, which leads to a lot of barriers and roadblocks because of this unjust and elitist system. I just felt really hopeless. I distinctly remember the moment he left just because, throughout these challenges, he was so gracious and didn’t look upset or disappointed but carried himself with dignity and honour. Now, I’m trying to get Scalabrini to get a cell phone so we don’t have to face that roadblock for future clients. 

After I leave Scalabrini, I’m going back home and taking the LSAT in January and applying early to Law School. I hope to take a few years after college to teach internationally, and then pursue a law degree.”