Cape Town Willem Wapenaar Volunteer Story

Willem Wapenaar: Advocacy Volunteer

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“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.

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“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.”

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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.”