cape town volunteer beza eap

Beza – EAP volunteer

“I was born in Canada but grew up in Colorado, and ended up going out-of-state for college in North Carolina! I am currently a junior at Duke University, pursuing a double-major in African American Studies and Political Science. I ended up at Scalabrini through my study abroad program, and currently serve as an EAP intern. I chose this program specifically because I was drawn to the idea of having a hands-on internship experience, and I’ve definitely gotten that. 

On a typical day, I spend 8:30-12:30 helping at the EAP desk. For the first half hour, I search and update job postings in the area, and at 9am we start seeing clients and helping them create CV’s. I spend the afternoons either teaching a digital literacy class until 4, or calling clients to follow-up with them and see whether they  have found employment. I also grade tests, look up internships for specific clients, and deal with other paperwork. 

“My favourite thing about being here is the clients, hands-down. I remember once having a bad day of classwork and just being really frustrated, and then checking my email and seeing that a client had sent me this really sweet and thankful email in response to the CV I’d made for him. Another client brought me a sweet gift and thank you note one time, and these little gestures of gratitude are really heartwarming and uplifting.”

This is my first time in South Africa, and honestly, I’ve loved it. I still feel like there’s so much left to learn in terms of politics, though. I came in knowing it was going to be nuanced, but there’s so much to discover. I just feel like I’m going to get home and keep reading books on South Africa to try to better understand all these nuances. 

It feels like Cape Town has it all; beautiful, amazing people, beaches, vineyards, and although I’ve enjoyed my experience, Cape Town is so different from the rest of South Africa. I find myself wondering how authentically “South African” my time here has been. It’s not always realistic to explore and understand spaces like townships first-hand, and the extremes here are just so extreme. These crazy, massive mansions are 20-30 minutes from slums. I come from places of inequality, but the divides here are so much more shocking and apparent, and these inconsistent demonstrations of wealth  make me very critical of my role here. People are still very clearly oppressed and facing the consequences of apartheid.

My intern role has been really impactful, and my clients’ resilience and ability to create roots, home and stability in places that don’t want them or can’t have them is incredible. They are faced with challenges like xenophobia and oppressive government structures, but I am consistently impressed by their determination and persistence in times where I couldn’t imagine myself doing the same. I have also gained a lot of confidence in myself and my abilities since coming here. It’s so validating to feel like my work is seen and appreciated; back home and in university, everything is so competitive and can make you feel like you aren’t good enough, but being here has given me the opposite feeling which is so invigorating.

My favourite thing about being here is the clients, hands-down. I remember once having a bad day of classwork and just being really frustrated, and then checking my email and seeing that a client had sent me this really sweet and thankful email in response to the CV I’d made for him. Another client brought me a sweet gift and thank you note one time, and these little gestures of gratitude are really heartwarming and uplifting.

After I leave Scalabrini, I’m going to finish my last year and a half of college and apply for the Peace Corps. I’ve always known I wanted an English teaching position in francophone Africa, and this internship has made me feel more capable of succeeding in a role like that. 

My advice for future interns is to come in a position of humility and compassion every day, and when you’re at your most frustrated, to take a second and return to that place, remember why you’re here. My hope for future clients is that they feel as capable and empowered as they truly are, and to know that even in seemingly-hopeless situations, they are capable of achievement.”

cape town volunteer laura eap

Laura Hickson – EAP volunteer

“I was born and raised in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and graduated from the University of Mississippi last May. During my university experience, I studied abroad in Barcelona for a semester and then in Cape Town for a year. I loved my experiences in both, but knew I had to return to Cape Town before I’d even left. I remember sitting in a cafe not too far from Scalabrini and researching potential NGO’s. When I came across Scalabrini, I was really impressed with the work they do and wanted to contribute however I could.

I studied history and sociology while at school, and although I was passionate about my courses and found the content fascinating, I knew I wanted to keep traveling after graduation. I’m interested in the fields of human rights and social equality, so my placement with the Employment Access Programme has gone so well.

“A lot of my motivation stems from my students and their eagerness to learn. My advice for future interns is to embrace these challenges that might be thrown at you, because they could shape some great relationships and opportunities for growth.”

On a daily basis, I help clients make or update their CV’s, apply for jobs, and I also teach a Microsoft Excel course on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Recently, I’ve started working with the Women’s Platform, and I enjoy interacting with clients face-to-face and getting to understand issues of migration first-hand, instead of just as numbers and statistics. 

My favourite memory at Scalabrini has been teaching the Excel class, because it was such a challenge for me at first but has turned into something to look forward to. A lot of my motivation stems from my students and their eagerness to learn. My advice for future interns is to embrace these challenges that might be thrown at you, because they could shape some great relationships and opportunities for growth.

I plan on going to law school eventually, and want to specialize in human rights or immigration law. I’m especially passionate about the inequality of the criminal justice system, so long-term, I see myself doing work in that field.”

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.”

cape town volunteer natalia portrait

Natalia – All Rounder volunteer

Natalia reflects on how Scalabrini has enriched her career experience and allowed her to be more creative and open to things, opportunities and people. She spent her six months here as an All Rounder. Read more about her experience. 

“I’ve lived in the Netherlands my whole life and just wrapped up a job there where I was working as a management consultant. My fiance was placed in Cape Town for 6 months through his work, so I decided to join him. I wanted to do something totally different from the work I was doing back home, to escape the corporate world and experience an NGO. I did some research and came upon Scalabrini, which brings me here. 

“I’ve learnt so much since coming here, specifically that you can do a lot with your free time. It really motivates me to go back home and invest some time in community to hopefully have a similarly rewarding experience.”

This isn’t my first time in South Africa, actually, I think it’s my fourth. Cape Town is a really popular holiday destination for people from the Netherlands. I’ve loved it every time, though, so I was excited to come back. Here at Scalabrini, I’m an All Rounder, and I also do some work in Women’s Platform and organisational things like Salesforce. It’s been really nice to use my career background and familiarity with an interface like Salesforce to help the organisation move forward. 

Working in an NGO has been really different, much different from commercial work. In NGOs you have real contact with people and get to know them on a more personal level which has been such a great experience. My day-to-day life varies a lot because I’m an All Rounder, which is a very flexible role. Sometimes I cover reception, and I co-facilitated the 9 week conversation club with Women’s Platform. That was one of my favourite parts; getting to know these women and seeing them grow in confidence was so cool. We saw a lot of progression in the 9 sessions, and they said they appreciated having a safe learning environment and growing in confidence which was the whole goal of the program, so that was really validating. I’ve also loved being involved with Women’s Platform events on Saturday’s and seeing how amazing and energetic the women are. This past weekend, women representing a few different countries were dancing on the stage and it was just one big party. It was so cool to see them enjoying themselves and feeling safe and having fun with each other.

I’ve learned so much since coming here, specifically that you can do a lot with your free time. It really motivates me to go back home and invest some time in community to hopefully have a similarly rewarding experience. My time at Scalabrini has also really enriched my career experience, and it has allowed me to be more creative and open to opportunities, things and people. When I go back to the Netherlands, I’m hoping for a bit of a career shift. I hope to work in digital product management, and am currently having a few interviews for jobs when I get back. My advice for future interns is to be open and flexible and to seek new opportunities.”

Cape Town Amena Saad Volunteer Story

Amena Saad: Communications Volunteer

Amena Saad from North Carolina is studying photojournalism. After deciding to take a year out and hearing about Scalabrini from another volunteer Amena applied to become a communication volunteer for three months.

I finished my sophomore year in college, and while I’ve loved my experience thus far, I was eager for a change in pace and scenery. I’ve lived in North Carolina since I was two years old, and attend a university that’s about 20 minutes from my parents’ home. I love North Carolina, don’t get me wrong, but life was starting to feel a bit too familiar. Last March, I got the opportunity to take a gap year for the purpose of international service through my school’s Center for Social Justice. I chose Cape Town as my first destination because I have yet to hear a negative review about this place (did you know Cape Town is the most revisited city in the world? gasp!).

I’d heard about Scalabrini from a previous volunteer who did the same gap year program I’m doing, and she had a really positive experience here. I was also excited by the prospect of doing work that doesn’t necessarily have my future or career at the focus, and my internship has been really fulfilling in that regard.

The transition to South Africa wasn’t too difficult for me, and I credit that to the community I’ve been able to build with the other interns, who have become great friends, and also within Cape Town’s Muslim community! I’ve grown up in a Muslim household and my religion is a big part of my identity, so it’s refreshing to have so many mosques to explore and people who are welcoming and eager to make me feel at home. I also credit my love for this area with its natural beauty; weekend hikes and trips to the beach never get old, and there’s always somewhere new to experience. Seriously- last weekend I went to three different beaches; this place is wild.

“I’m studying photo and video journalism in school, so my role as a communications intern is really well-suited to my interests. It has also promoted considerable growth, and I’ve learned so much from Jennifer, the communications manager, about different styles of photography.”

On a daily basis, I interview clients and write their success stories, take photos and report on different events going on around the center, and work on smaller tasks like updating individual platform brochures and creating a new volunteer board in reception! My favorite memory at Scalabrini has been attending the Heritage Day potluck we had to celebrate our diverse backgrounds. Not only was the food delicious, but it was also fascinating to learn about the different cuisines of our staff and interns’ home countries!

My hope for the future at Scalabrini is that it maintains its positive and familial work environment. I feel so comfortable talking with and getting to know the various staff members, and am already dreading having to say goodbye at the end of all this.

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.