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Miranda Madikane, director of Scalabrini, reflects on the organisation’s year in her end-of-year letter. Image credit: Maria Rivans for Wellcome Collection.

Dear partners, friends, colleagues!

This year has been a whirlwind, which has blown both good and bad into our lives.

Our first 2020 newsletter, at the onset of the pandemic, marvelled at the adaptability of the Scalabrini team in reaction to the national lockdown – an adaptability mirrored in our clients’ everyday lives as they navigate and survive in South Africa. Our second newsletter looked at the unexpected depth of warmth and hospitality that the pandemic created amongst the general public. And now, as our last newsletter closes off this turbulent year, it is time to settle into the festive season and reflect. I find myself reflecting on this idea of coming ‘home’.

Whatever your faith or beliefs, December is a time of year when we seek to draw closer to our friends and families. It is intended as a time of rest and reflection and many of us return ‘home’ to be with loved ones. I think I am safe in saying that, if any of us are able to be safe, and with loved ones this December, we are in a very fortunate percentage of the world – and the pandemic has only served to highlight this.

Much like the opening scenes of the film ‘Wizard of Oz’ (in which a tornado rips into the protagonist’s life and whisks her home away) the pandemic seemed to tip our worlds upside-down in a mighty whirlwind; our concept of ‘home’ might too have been affected. Many people have been unable to reach loved ones due to the travel restrictions brought about by Covid-19. For others, ‘home’ is not a safe or happy space – and our recent SGBV campaign  has aimed to signpost those who are not safe in their homes.

As you can imagine, for the majority of our clients, returning to their homeland is simply an impossibility – pandemic or no pandemic.

Homesickness was recently explored (and beautifully illustrated) in a recent article in which a student from Scalabrini’s English School was featured. This was one article in a series about homesickness. This specific piece looked at refugee communities’ homesickness – ‘when you can’t return home’. The idea of ‘home’ and ‘missing home’ has been found to form more than just a personal feeling among those seeking asylum. Homesickness for many refugee communities is something much more profound, deep and communal – a shared sentiment that shapes the communities’ identity and diaspora cultures. Mirroring this, our Far From Home Series collected up some beautiful, strong words from people on migrant and refugee status in South Africa who survived the pandemic ‘far from home’. Marc, for example, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, stresses that ‘we need to be strong and never lose hope. I understand that things are even worse especially when you are far from home …  [but] every time we put food on our table, we shall remember those who don’t have.’ This strength, despite being far from home, is what strikes me so often at Scalabrini.

This festive period, I hope you are able to rest and reflect with those you love. If you are not able to, I hope you can take strength from others around you and know that you are not alone. Onacisse, who participated in Far From Home, leaves us with some hopeful advice: “Check up on family and friends, and appreciate them each every day, it reduces stress especially during this tough time. I hope and believe that one day we will rejoice with our loved ones, because Coronavirus is not going to stay forever. And after this pandemic life is going to change for the better.”

I wish you a peaceful December break, and we hope that 2021 will bring us warm breezes rather than whirlwinds!

Miranda Madikane
Director at Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town

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