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‘SendMe Africa’: Gaining skills and knowledge to start an online store and delivery app with Men’s Development Group

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Navigating a new digital world with UpLearn and English School

Repatriation and reconnection: facilitating a journey home with the Welfare Team

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Pauline* (name changed to protect her identity) found herself in hospital in Cape Town – alone and struggling with her mental health. Once discharged from hospital, it was likely that Pauline would end up homeless. Working in collaboration with Stikland Psychiatric Hospital and their social worker, the Welfare Team helped facilitate Pauline’s repatriation, back home to the love and support of her family.  

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Pauline lived in Lubumbashi, before she decided to follow her sister to South Africa. Not much is known about her life in Cape Town, except that it was not long before she started showing signs of schizophrenia – this had not happened before moving to South Africa.  

When Pauline started displaying these signs, she was first admitted to Karl Bremer hospital and then to Stikland – a psychiatric hospital in Cape Town. Unknowingly, Stikland was where she would spend the next year of her life.  

After four months of being hospitalised, Pauline was stable and ready to be discharged. The social worker reached out to Pauline’s sister, only to be told that they had moved to Durban and “wanted nothing to do with it.” 

Pauline was undocumented, could not speak English and had now lost her support system. Because she was undocumented, she was unable to access a disability grant – needed for her to be placed in an adequate shelter. “There were multi-layered challenges around the client that made her particularly vulnerable” said the Welfare Team. If Pauline was discharged from Stikland, she would have been homeless – on the streets of a city that was not her home.  

This was when the social worker contacted Scalabrini’s Welfare Team. The team would go on to work on this case for close to a year.  

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The Welfare Team arranged, with the help of the social worker, for Pauline to stay in the hospital until adequate plans were made. The team felt that the best option for Pauline would be to go home. Repatriation was put on the table – paid for by the hospital – and the Welfare Team kicked things into full gear, determined to get Pauline home, to the safety and support of her family.  

“This was when we started tracing the family,” explains Etienne, Welfare Consultant. The language barrier had made it difficult for the social worker on Pauline’s case. Etienne, being from DRC himself, speaks French and Lingala, and was able to step in.  

Through speaking to Pauline’s family back home, it was discovered that her sister had not moved to Durban at all – she was still in Cape Town, living in the same house. “She was rejected by her sister.” 

Sadly, this is something that the Welfare Team has come across many times before – where the family members in South Africa reject the person in need of care.We have a lot of clients who are in the hospital. There are so many clients in the same situations with no proper exit strategies. Sometimes they [the social workers] will just dump them outside the offices here without saying anything, “ says Jane, Welfare Manager.  

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Although Pauline’s sister did not want to help, her family in DRC were gravely concerned and wanted her home as soon as possible. To ensure Pauline’s safe arrival home, the Welfare Team took on the task of securing her travel documents, facilitating the process with the embassies and preparing her family for her arrival. This work took months. 

It was decided that another sister would come meet Pauline in South Africa and take her home, but unfortunately the costs were too high for the family and Pauline had to travel alone – fortunately she was still feeling stable. Etienne worked in a hospital in the DRC – his experience proved vital in this case, as he was able to contact hospitals in Pauline’s home city. He could confidently make sure that she would be able to get the correct medication she needs.  

On 23 November 2021, the team put Pauline on a plane where she bravely made her way back home. She was warmly welcomed by her family and is still of stable mental health – photos have been sent. The Welfare Team will continue to keep in touch with Pauline and her family to assist as best they can from South Africa. “Pauline’s case is a long-term case for us”. And a triumphant one too.  



What Pauline went through in South Africa, is something that the Welfare Team has come across often. “It is very common that people develop mental health problems when they come to South Africa.”  

Many times, lack of preparedness, difficulties in adjusting to the new environment, the complexity of the local system, language difficulties, cultural disparities and adverse experiences would cause distress to migrants. Moreover, subsequently it has a negative impact on mental well-being of such population.” (Migration and Mental Health)  

This has been one of the reasons that Welfare, specifically Etienne, started the Men’s Development Group at Scalabrini. To help combat mental health problems by providing a safe space for men to express what they are going through, share in others experiences and to know that they are not alone. 

If you would like to find out more about the Men’s Development Group, you can send an email to etienne@scalabrini.org.za 







International Education Day

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Today marks International Education Day

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Education is key, education uplifts and builds individuals and society.  We need to educate ourselves and others and see the humanity and dignity of all. Everyone in South Africa whatever their nationality, age gender or belief has the right to dignity and is equal before the law. The Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town calls for greater Education on the need for Solidarity and Compassion toward our fellow person particularly in light of the recent spate of Xenophobic Rhetoric and Incidents in Gauteng. We can and must do better and learn from one another seeing the blessing and value of embracing diversity rather than pursing a divisive and destructive agenda. Let’s do better. I stand, we stand, with migrant workers and with migrants residing in South Africa being evicted from their homes or place of work and I ask, we ask, that we all do the same. The violence and discrimination have to stop and we must turn our focus to collectively challenging and changing our future.

Education is also a right for all. A right that extends to documented and undocumented children alike. We have come across children both migrant and South African denied access to schools based on their or their parent’s documentation. The Constitution is Clear, the Rights of the Child are paramount. The 2019 Centre for Child Law case and pursuant circular make it clear that children cannot be denied access to schools. As the school year begins let us educate and appraise ourselves of the right to education for all children in South Africa and ensure that no child is turned away.


A world in motion : Siya

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Welcome to our A World In Motion series. The last two years have been a time when many people confronted the significance of mobility and borders – in our own personal lives and the lives of others. With much talk of people arriving in South Africa, it is also important to acknowledge that many South Africans move to other countries too. Our world is one that is in motion.

We chat to Siya, who moved from South Africa to Thailand

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Why did you decide to move to Thailand?  

I moved to Thailand because I was longing for an adventure. I needed a change of scenery and wanted to meet new people.  

What do you do there? 

I am an English and Drama teacher at a Thai Christian boarding school 

Have you found it to be a welcoming country and city to live in? 

Thailand is very welcoming. There is a big expat community in Bangkok. Thai people are also very welcoming – it is very common for them to greet you, ask ‘have you eaten?’ and offer you food. There are some difficult moments, but the good outweighs those times.  

What are some things you have done to help with your integration into the country that you are now living in? 

When I moved to Thailand, I took a Thai culture and language class. Skateboarding in the skateparks and befriending the Thai skaters helped me improve my Thai language abilities.  

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Do you think it is important to make an effort to integrate into the new society you find yourself in?  

I think it’s important to integrate yourself. because integration leads to the understanding of different cultures. learning the language and understanding people 

How is your life there different from your life in South Africa?  

Life here is at times a little easier. Transportation is so convenient and it is cheap to travel around the country. The cultural differences can, at times, make things challenging, but you learn to work around that.  

What do you miss about South Africa?  

I miss my family and friends, the food, the people, music, Cape Town, and Jozi.  

Do you see yourself moving back to South Africa in the future? 

Yes, I want to live in Cape Town again for the climate, the beauty, the mountains and the ocean. I want to live in Johannesburg again for my family. 

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Innovation in the time of a pandemic: countering unemployment in the tourism and hospitality industries

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For sale’ signs line the once busy streets of Cape Town. While some business owners were forced to close down during the pandemic, others are innovating and upskilling in preparation for what is to come. At the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town (SCCT)Employment Access and Women’s Platform had to adapt their programmes to make sure that they were able to offer support. Their clients had to do the same.  

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Tourism forms a critical chunk of the South African economy: as of June 2020, the industry generated 740 000 direct jobs and more than 1.5 million indirect jobs. The hospitality industry in South Africa leans heavily on tourism to provide it with customers. Under lockdown, people were not able to travel easily and South Africa’s tourism industry took a monumental knock. The tourism industry has suffered a loss of billions of Rands and an estimated 300,000 jobs since the start of lockdown.  

Curfews, alcohol bans and closed public spaces further contributed to many businesses closing. SCCT had to close its physical doors and move its programmes online. SCCT staff had to adapt quickly to be able to offer clients their assistance. “We were in shock and the clients were too,” explains Hylton Bergh, Employment Access manager. “We had over 300 clients a month coming to SCCT for assistance with creating a CV, applying for jobs or receiving training. In order to service them we had to move all our services and trainings online, but we also had to make sure that the clients understood what we were trying to do.” 

The feelings of shock and uncertainty were echoed by Women’s Platform. “We thought it would just be two weeks and then things would go back to normal,” says Julia Oduol, Women’s Platform Livelihood Manager. The team had to react quickly to move their services online to ensure support for the women in their network. “We have more than 800 women in our database. Women in craft and hospitality were directly affected [as they lost their jobs in the lockdown]. Women in childcare were affected because mothers would stay home and not take their children to creche.” Women working in the beauty industry were also affected as hotels and spas began to lose business.  

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David Mwambayi, an Employment Access client, started as a security guard and is now the receptionist at a hotel in Cape Town. When the national lockdown came into effect, David was fortunately not one of the employees to be retrenched, but the hotel had to make adjustments for the staff that they were still able to employ. “The adjustment was instant – they started paying us 50% of our salaries.” 

Monica Kalumba, a member of Women’s Platform, also faced difficulties when her and her husband’s restaurant was unable to operate. “We couldn’t do our job. We couldn’t sell anything. We were just indoors. We were just stuck.”  

To make matters worse, finding new employment became increasingly difficult. “When [asylum or refugee] permits expired, employers were not understanding of the fact that the Refugee Reception Offices were closed and clients could not renew their permits – people were asked to leave their jobs,” explains Hylton. “Many of our clients lack basic English and digital literacy skills. During the pandemic, these barriers was exacerbated.”  

Max Ximbi, Employment Access’ former placement officer, was on the frontline of trying to help clients find employment. “On the one side there were no jobs and on the other side they [SCCT clients] were losing support to access the opportunities that were available. Firstly, no jobs, secondly no support. It was difficult to bridge that gap … Now, we are seeing opportunities coming back but competition is much higher.” 

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When looking at how programmes were able to support clients, Julia explains that Women’s Platform gained access to a grant from UNHCR to support 40 small businesses within the Women’s Platform network. “The goal of the project was to protect the food security of business owners and their employees throughout lockdown and to protect local economies by supplying much needed capital to restart their businesses post lockdown. There was a lot of creativity and innovation when it came to the small businesses that we work with. “ 

Upskilling has become a common theme amongst Employment Access and Women’s Platform clients. “People are trying to understand career awareness and trajectory for the first time. There has been a shift around ‘the plan’,” says Prashana Rampersad, who works with Employment Access and UpLearn. Clients are looking for opportunities to improve their skills. David echoed this; “for me, it was a time to learn something new.”  

With his reduced working hours, David started studying through FUNZI – “I really loved the courses. They [the courses] have opened my mind and helped me understand things that I struggled with before.”  

The two SCCT programmes are working to assist clients who want to upskill.  A large majority of women in Women’s Platform depend on tourism for their income. This focus is now shifting to the South African market and their wants – leading to more sustainable businesses.  “There are opportunities being created between the pandemic”.  

Employment Access is offering trainings in digital literacy, professional skills and FUNZI courses. The aim is to improve clients’ employability. “We have identified where they [Employment Access clients] are lacking and we are doing something about that,” says Max. “We are trying to make people more proactive and to empower them.” 

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Armed with new knowledge, David’s confidence has grown. He acknowledges that the courses he completed during the lockdown and the assistance he got from Employment Access will help in reaching his future goals. “I would like to grow in this [hospitality] industry. Studying professional skills has had such an impact on my knowledge. One day I would like to own my own hotel.” 

Monica embraced the time spent with her two sons in the lockdown and supported her family by baking and delivering birthday cakes. Her and her husband have been able to reopen their business and are feeling positive about the future. “I can see that my business is now growing more than what I was expecting. Last year I couldn’t see any future for the business. But now I am going somewhere.” 

The Employment Access team are constantly looking for way to empower their clients. “It is up to our clients to grasp all opportunities. By doing this, we have seen many clients succeed in finding gainful employment or growing their businesses,” says Hylton. Within Women’s Platform, Julia has seen the women coming together to support one another. “Lockdown brought a lot of fear and loss, but it also brought a lot of positives that we continue to tap into.”