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.”

Cape Town Victoria Assenza Volunteer Story

Victoria Assenza: English School Volunteer

I’m from France and I’m studying political science at the University of Cape Town. I discovered Scalabrini while doing research for my thesis.
I am currently a volunteer at the English School where I help with administrative tasks in the office and teach English. On top of having gained a lot of experience with teaching, I have learned to work on various projects and to do all types of small and bigger jobs to assist the English school team.

Volunteering at Scalabrini has helped me grow professionally by allowing me to apply my knowledge and develop multiple new skills. On a personal level, this experience has helped me meet and work with a huge diversity of people, from the staff to the clients.

I got to learn more about other people as much as I got to learn about myself.

One of my most memorable moments working at the Scalabrini Centre was the end of the English term when we held a graduation ceremony. The closing of the term felt like an achievement for both the English school team and the clients where you can see that personal/friendly links have been built within the professional/strict environment of a school.

“Working with the Scalabrini team has been a real pleasure. I was given meaningful responsibilities and independence in my tasks. They have been more than welcoming and has trusted me to work on bigger projects with them.”

The orientation during the first week has also strongly helped me feel included to the larger team of the Scalabrini Centre as a whole.

Cape Town Willem Wapenaar Volunteer Story

Willem Wapenaar: Advocacy Volunteer

“I was born in Rotterdam in the Netherlands and grew up in a neighbourhood which was mixed. It was both very quiet but also only 15 min from the city centre by bike and was inhabited by people of diverse socioeconomic status. This made my upbringing very pleasant as I feel I can talk to anyone without feeling too estranged. I studied law and came to South Africa to experience living abroad and gain work experience as an advocacy intern. The choice to work for refugees was mainly from an interest point, which works out well at Scalabrini since I get to work closely with clients.

Though my time volunteering in the Advocacy programme I realised that my understanding of South African Refugee law and the procedures was at a minimum. Due to the complexities of the Department of Home Affairs I had to adjust to this and try my best to make some sense of it.

“Professionally, Scalabrini has taught me that I can work hard and have fun at the same time and that good work comes with a heart for the job. By meeting people from all over Africa on a daily basis, I have grown and found out so much more about the world than I knew before.”

The most memorable aspect of the job will be the stories that I have heard from clients which, simultaneously keep me going and keep me up at night. In reflecting on my experiences here, my major hopes are that there will be more fairness in the procedure and that our clients will integrate and make friends with the locals. While I’m unsure of my future plans, after working at Scalabrini I will return to the Netherlands where I will finish my studies and be together with my girlfriend.”

Cape Town Ruda Herselman Volunteer Story

Ruda Herselman: Advocacy Volunteer

“I am from Johannesburg, South Africa, and I have just finished my undergraduate in Law. A friend referred me to Scalabrini. I was looking for a job and they asked me to think about Human Rights Law and Advocacy. I came to a Women’s Platform event and I loved it.

I work in the Advocacy programme, in a typical day… well, first things first . . . coffee! Tuesday to Friday I do client intakes. It’s my favourite part, I love working with them, although I have to ask for help every five minutes I always have support when i need it. In the afternoons, I follow up on client issues and work on other projects such as the Birth Registration project.

What I’ve learned since joining the Scalabrini Centre is compassion. I was unaware of the depth of compassion that I could feel for other people.

During our orientation, they told us about self-care, and I just had no idea of the emotional depth of that experience. Personally, working at Scalabrini has helped me work with people on an emotional level, which is something I’ve never done before. Professionally, it’s broadened my horizons to look at new potential career paths. 6 months ago, I would have laughed if you’d told me that I’d be working at an NGO . . . now it’s a path I might go down.

My hope for Scalabrini clients is that they are able to find a little bit of hope. I see a lot of hopelessness. If we can give just a little bit of hope, we can keep the human spirit alive.”

Cape Town Leensa Ghenetti Volunteer Story

Leensa Ghenetti: Communications and Women’s Platform Volunteer

“I come from the Netherlands and Ethiopia but have spent the majority of my life living in New York. Coming from a mixed background, I have always been interested in issues relating to integration and multiculturalism. I’m currently pursuing a degree in political science at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.

Within my studies I have become quite interested in the institution of democracy and how it functions in different countries as well and the prevalence of vote buying and clientelistic behavior. I was first drawn to South Africa’s unique political climate which lead me to spend a semester studying at UCT, last August. During this period of time I met many inspiring people and was exposed to the diverse problems that are prevalent in a society in transition. One of these problems being that of discrimination against migrants and refugees and barriers to integrating.

“Having greatly enjoyed my time in Cape Town and inspired by what I had learned through my past experiences here, I couldn’t resist coming back and working for Scalabrini as a communications intern…”

On a day to day basis I work on finding compelling articles to share, interviewing and writing human interest pieces and documenting different evens. While I simultaneously assist as needed with various tasks in the office. I’ve enjoyed the dynamic work environment and having the ability to access and see the many different moving parts of Scalabrini….My future plans involve getting a masters degree, possibly in political communication or international development ”

Cape Town Kethlyn Gayatiri Volunteer Story

Kethlyn Gayatiri: Employment Access Volunteer

“As strange as it may sound, I wound picking Africa as my destination for my Summer break, on a random day in Law School. I simply spun the globe and planted my finger on it, and before I knew it, I was on a plane to South Africa. To psych myself up for the trip, I began searching for NGOs to work with, and I felt like Scalabrini was a perfect fit for me. I was an all-rounder intern, but I wound up sticking with the Employment Access Programme, where I work at the Employment Help Desk, or conduct Job Readiness and Digital Literacy workshops for our clients. A working day at the desk is hectic, where I meet between 4 to 10pm clients to design CVs for them and apply jobs for them. Apart from that, I also interact with the clients, and together with the EAP team, we find ways in which we can assist the clients in terms of his/ her professional development, career and training.

Despite being a first-timer in S.A, it felt almost at home. It could be because South Africa was a country that was often discussed in my Human Rights class, but I am sure the warm hospitality, and amazing food are other reasons why I settled so quickly in S.A. I do have to admit, that S.A is very different from my home country, Singapore. Singapore is very much of a “concrete” jungle where we are surrounded by high-rise buildings all of the time. Fast-paced, efficient, and very expensive! The pace of the work environment, and how everything moved was something I needed to adapt to. It reminded me to take it slow, and smell the roses. Given how South Africa is filled with Mother Nature’s wonders, it then gives me the perfect opportunities to appreciate all that South Africa had to offer. I fell in love with the mountains, the sea, the food, the music, the art scene, the languages, and the culture.

The major highlight was receiving emails and cards from clients as a form of appreciation for the work that we do for them. It can be an exhausting task to meet clients after clients, and put out fire with them as we listen to their problems, struggles and obstacles, and try to find ways to help them. Thus, receiving appreciative notes reassures and motivates us to hang in there.
It is going to be bittersweet to bid farewell to Scalabrini, more specifically, to the EAP and the Womens’ Platform. I would not have been enjoying, in fact, looking forward to work every day. 

“All of you have a heart of Gold, and the team reminds me every day of how important it is to keep the passion alive, and to not be afraid to pursue my goals and dreams. I hope that the clients too feel the same energy when they meet us, because they are amazing individuals too, and they just need the right opportunity to prosper.”

Lucy Arnold: Communications Volunteer

Home for me is the rainy but beautiful region of Seattle in the American Pacific Northwest, where I love hiking and trail running whenever I can. I am currently an undergraduate at Stanford University in California, where I am studying interdisciplinary environmental science and human rights.
The past few months that I have spent in Cape Town mark the first time I have lived abroad, and being here through the water crisis and so much political change has been absolutely fascinating. In general, I have found Cape Town to be an extremely vibrant city and a place where I have reflected more deeply on my identity than anywhere else. I found Scalabrini through its connections to the Stanford study abroad program I am part of, and I have been so excited to work here and be surrounded by the activities of a refugee rights NGO.

Over the past couple months, I have been the communications volunteer, tasked with developing social media content, writing articles, helping cover events, and more. Most days, my work involves interacting with different types of media, writing social media posts and articles catered to different audiences, and researching for new rounds of content. Working at Scalabrini, I have learned the importance of flexibility, patience, and tenacity.

“Being at Scalabrini is also a very humbling experience – though I rarely interacted with clients in my work, I was always surrounded by colleagues who are deeply committed to what they do and clients whose stories show incredible resilience in the face of adversity.”

Moving on from Scalabrini, I am going to continue working toward my bachelors degree. After that, I am interested in pursuing law school, masters work, a PhD, or some combination. I hope to one day pursue a career at the intersection of environmental sustainability and human rights.

Simone Adler: Advocacy Volunteer

As a Jewish person, I am embedded with an ancestral heritage of ‘migration’. From a small shtetl in Poland, Lithuania, Russia and Belgium, I am a product of movement. Working as an English teacher in South Korea further connected me to these concepts of ‘migration’ and ‘foreign’.
These experiences, as well as my background as a UCT BA LLB (bachelor of law) graduate, have drawn me towards international migration issues and subsequently Scalabrini, where I volunteer in the Advocacy programme.

“It is in this position that I consistently question and acknowledge my power, roles and responsibilities through the depth and breadth of the world that is the ‘Department of Home Affairs’, ‘Education Departments’, ‘Principles’, ‘investigators’, ‘prosecutors’ and all those ‘others’ who have certain powers over the lives and conditions of the clients that appear before me.”

My clients have limited capacity to realize the full enjoyment of their rights, to gain access to the documents they need to work, to renew their permits, to ensure their children attend school, to appeal against rejections of their refugee status — the list goes on and on.

At Scalabrini, we have some power to challenge powerful actors in society and government. We also have the ability to advocate around legislation and policy. While we may be part of a small NGO, we are big in our pursuit of justice and equality.

What I will remember of my experiences here are the people, their faces and their stories. I will especially remember the children who were struggling to be admitted into schools, clients who faced detention, and those whose refugee statuses had been withdrawn or limited. Scalabrini is a part of my journey and aspiration to further pursue Human Rights Law.

Cape Town Kelly Lawrence House Volunteer Story

Stories from Lawrence House: Kelly

Lawrence House is a registered child and youth care centre based in Woodstock, Cape Town. Lawrence House can accommodate up to 25 children and youth and specialises in the care and protection of unaccompanied foreign minors and refugee children, as well as of children who have experienced trauma.

We meet Kelly, a former volunteer and current donor to Lawrence House.

Stories from Lawrence House: Romina

Founded in 2005, Lawrence House is a registered Child and Youth Care Centre providing care and protection to unaccompanied foreign minors and refugee children. We meet Romina Meneghetti who is the senior child and youth care worker at Lawrence House.