Adam HewsonHuman Rights Intern | Cape Town
Oh how the time flies… It’s been a whole two months since I first walked in the doors of my internship with a refugee advocacy organisation, and on that day I had no idea what kind of a job I was getting into.
The first big surprise which I encountered here was how much I was turned to for my knowledge and experience. In Canada, an intern is essentially the bottom of the food chain in any given office. Interns are told to write reports, get coffee, and maybe hunt down some information or a file. That is to say, we get the jobs that are brainless enough that they don’t need someone experienced, and are the jobs that the experienced neither have the time nor the desire to do. Here on the other hand…
My first day my fellow intern and I were tasked to design a number of pamphlets to educate different sections of society on Xenophobia (a word which will come to dominate my professional life for the next two months). Of course, Xenophobia is a concept which is quite foreign to Canadians. Not to say that it doesn’t exist in Canada, just that the effects are minimal and we tend to pretend that it’s not there. This meant that from day one I was tasked with the job of teaching others about a concept which was somewhat foreign to me. This challenged me to step up, and I very quickly learned about the specifics of South African Xenophobia, its history as well as its effects on society, and transfer that knowledge on to others.
The next task I was given was to design a programme to be presented at schools to teach children about Xenophobia. Fortunately I have a fairly substantial background in African current events (at least for a Canadian undergrad student), so I stuck to what I knew and decided that the best way to build empathy for refugees would be to show children the kinds of situations from which these people are fleeing. This has been a bit of a personal struggle for me. On the one hand, anyone who studies war extensively knows that it is not a fun situation, and would completely understand the desire to leave areas in conflict. On the other hand, these are children which I’ve been teaching this to, and I know that when I was a child, I would not have been mentally prepared for the knowledge of many of the things which go on in the world. This has resulted in a balancing act of the twin purposes of teaching about conflict in order to build empathy, and leaving out enough detail so as not to terrify the children.
My time here has also given valuable experience in a number of other ways. I’ve seen firsthand the effects of different organizational structures and how that affects how a job gets done, as well as frustrations which can arise when these types of organizations interact. I’ve visited my first refugee camp (which officially did not exist) near Paarl, a rather eye opening experience. What shocked me most was that despite the poor conditions in the camp, all the refugees asked for was to help them return home. Not one asked for meals, warmer or softer beds, or entertainment; they just asked to return to their community. I was inspired by them, to say the least.
I’ve also had the privilege to see many of the idiosyncrasies of South African, or at least Capetonian, life. Contradictions between government rhetoric and actions, problems in humanitarian coordination, public misconceptions over many issues and how these misconceptions and beliefs can vary drastically even between neighbouring communities, how the root cause of a social phenomenon may manifest itself in surprising ways, et cetera, et cetera.
To say the least, it’s been an amazing learning experience. I’m not sure if I’m actually able to articulate the full impact of what I’ve seen and done here has had on me, nor am I sure if I will ever be able to. All I can say for sure is that these last two months have gone by far too quickly, but that even from such a short time working here I will be far more prepared for any future career which I undertake in this field, as well as future studies which I may conduct.
My most sincere thanks go out to all of the staff, who have welcomed me with open arms into their organization, as well as the many other people whom I have worked with, who have all given me two of the best months of my life.
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Alli AssiterHuman Rights Intern | Cape Town
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Alyssa JohnsonHuman Rights Intern | Cape Town
Michigan State University
4 January 2010
I recommend this program for absolutely anyone! I spent three of the richest and most memorable months of my life interning for a human rights organization just outside of the city. I was given real work to do that directly related to my University coursework. My coworkers and the entire Connect team were so welcoming and always made sure I had plenty of activities to keep busy with. I quickly...
Amanda PalakaHuman Rights | Cape Town
Michigan State University
3 December 2009
My internship experience in Cape Town was incredible and I have the people at Connect- 123 to thank. The staff was very helpful and did a great job in helping me with preparations prior to my arrival in South Africa. Melanie contacted me several times and helped find me the perfect internship for my interests. The program arranged transportation from the airport, housing and helped answer all my pre-departure questions....
Michelle BeattieHuman Rights Internship | Cape Town
Wilfrid Laurier University
17 November 2009
My time with Connect-123 was one of the best experiences of my life. I was able to gain valuable experience in my area of study and make lasting relationships with other interns. The staff were very helpful and involved, making sure that I was satisfied with my internship and general experience in South Africa. Melanie was especially helpful and was a very important person in making my time in Cape...
Alyssa Thompson-TuckerRefugee Rights Internship | Cape Town
3 March 2009
Finding an internship through Connect-123 made the previously stressful task of finding one myself, instantaneously simple. Directly after inquiring about Connect-123 I was contacted by Steven and shortly thereafter they had found me an internship with a non-profit organization, which fit both my interests and qualifications. Not only was everyone at Connect wonderfully friendly and helpful, but they were also always available if you needed anything. I personally think the...
Crystal FisherHuman Rights Volunteer | Cape Town
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30 December 2008
Connect-123 works hard to find a great internship that meets all your needs. This was no exception for me. I had the opportunity to work with one of the leading human rights NGOs in the country that gave me hands on experience with the social problems of South Africa. I could see immediate results from the volunteer projects I was asked to lead and the field work I participated in...