Giulia speaks of her time at Scalabrini and how being here has broadened the way in which she views the world. Her interests lie in human rights and the International Law field, which lead her to a volunteer position at Scalabrini. Read more about her experience as an Advocacy volunteer.
“One year ago, in this very moment, I was in the heart of Cape Town at Scalabrini Centre office – talking to J., an asylum seeker who just arrived from the DRC and telling him how to get an asylum seeker permit, or writing a letter to a hospital explaining that M., who is a pregnant undocumented woman has the right to access healthcare under South African law, or clarifying to A., a refugee, how to ask for family joining.
Becoming an Advocacy Volunteer at Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town has been one of the best decisions I ever made. Studying human rights abuses is one thing, talking to people who face them every day is another. The experience at Scalabrini Centre was exactly what I was looking for.
“I explored the true meanings of identity, diversity and integration, and I did so removing the Euro-centric pair of lenses with which I was taught to look at the world."
As a member of the Advocacy team, my main task was to give paralegal advice to asylum seekers and refugees who attend the walk-in clinic in the morning. The advice regarded issues of documentation, the asylum system, appeal processes and access to healthcare and education. This was the part of the job that I preferred, as it gave me the opportunity to listen to asylum seekers and refugees’ stories, and also because at the end of the day, the walk-in clinic is much more than giving paralegal advice. It is about restoring people’s dignity. It is about making people feel they are not alone. Yet, I also found it very difficult – I often felt powerless towards some of the injustices that I heard.
Other tasks that I carried out included researching specific Refugee Law topics, writing press reviews, and attending meetings at the South African Parliament. Moreover, I spent one afternoon per week at Lawrence House, a child care center for unaccompanied foreign minors, where I had the opportunity to organise workshops and activities for the children and teenagers living there.
Thanks to Scalabrini Centre and the amazing staff, I grew both from a professional and personal point of view. Professionally, I definitely improved my theoretical and practical knowledge of International and South African Refugee Law. Personally, I explored the true meanings of identity, diversity and integration, and I did so removing the Euro-centric pair of lenses with which I was taught to look at the world. Everything that I learned in this regard is shaping and will continue to shape my future work and personal relationships.
As a first-year PhD candidate in Human Rights and Global Politics in Italy at the moment, my future plans are to write a doctoral thesis which can really have a practical impact on society and to get some more field experience in order for my studies to always be connected with people’s real life. Actually, if I won a PhD scholarship it is also thanks to my time at Scalabrini Centre as I got extremely valuable career advice and life lessons by its staff.
I conclude saying that I truly hope that the people who come to Scalabrini for help will keep fighting for their rights. This battle they take part in everyday is exhausting, I could see that in many people’s eyes. Some people are losing the energy as the system they fight against seems to be invincible. My hope is directed towards these people, I hope they will find the strength to carry on.”