Emiel came to South Africa wanting to put his theoretical knowledge into practise. His time at Scalabrini has not only enhanced his skills and personal development, but it has also opened his eyes. He spent six months volunteering in the Advocacy Programme. Read about his time at Scalabrini below.
As a volunteer, Emiel would spend most of his day providing supervised paralegal advice, practical assistance and referrals to vulnerable individuals and groups from refugee, migrant and asylum seeker communities. The clients that he would deal with came from many different countries around Africa, some have spent many years living here and others are new to the country.
Being able to speak French would often be very useful as many clients come from countries where French is their first language and Emiel was able to step in and help his colleagues when there was a language barrier.
He says that his time here has awakened him to take notice of the problems South Africa faces regarding migrant and refugee rights. It has been a big reality check for him. One reads about refugees and migrants in different parts of the world in a newspaper, but it is very different when sitting across from a person with real problems, asking for help.
Emiel realised that when you look at the impact that you are making on a daily basis volunteering in an area like advocacy, it can sometimes feel relatively small and on a micro level, but when you hear that your effort made things work out, it gives you a feeling of satisfaction. He acknowledges that making an impact on a micro level is already very valuable for the individual client.
He has learned a great deal while volunteering at Scalabrini, including information about the ins and outs of South Africa’s asylum system and the practical everyday barriers that many asylum seekers, migrants and refugees face in South Africa. Emiel has been able to put his theoretical skills and knowledge into practise, making it possible to make a difference for Scalabrini’s clients.
Having had to return home to Belgium, Emiel says he might not be there for too long. He would like to work abroad, preferably somewhere where he can be involved with the protection and rights of refugees.