My experiences as All-rounder

What do you do when you have one year off work?! … Easy, of course, you go travelling!! To get away from the German winter, I decided to go around the southern hemisphere. The country I wanted to see most was South Africa. I was curious what all the people were talking about when they said how amazing, stunning and breathtaking South Africa is.

I arrived here in November 2009 and started exploring cities, national parks, mountains, canyons, beaches, villages, markets, not only in South Africa, but also in most of its neighbouring countries. I’ve seen many different landscapes, from dry deserts to green mountains. I’ve seen animals I didn’t even know existed. I’ve tried exotic food, and learned words in languages I’ve never heard before. But most importantly, I met the nicest people, open and friendly and welcoming me wherever I went. And suddenly I understood what the people meant when they were talking about amazing, stunning, breathtaking South Africa.

It didn’t take long to convince myself not only to travel, but also to do something useful in South Africa. I really wanted to get more in touch with the people here and wanted to get more involved in everyday life. So I finally ended up at the Scalabrini Centre in Cape Town. Besides running a beautiful and welcoming Guest House on the 3rd floor, where I always used to stay during my travels, the Scalabrini Centre offers a huge variety of help and support to refugees from all over Africa. Lots of people, who had to leave their home countries, ending up all alone in South Africa, come here every day. Sometimes they don’t even speak a word English. Yet all of this doesn’t stop their optimism and their motivation to find a new job, to go to computer classes and to learn English.

My work as All-rounder covers many interesting parts of different projects at Scalabrini. First of all, I’m teaching English classes, and that was indeed a big surprise to myself! I never saw myself in the role of a teacher, actually I even thought that teaching was the last thing I wanted to do in my life. I was so wrong though, I really do enjoy teaching English classes here! No matter if I have a Beginners class or the Intermediate level, all of the students are amazing. They are motivated, most of them come regularly twice a week, and they all get better and better every time. And most importantly, we have a lot of fun together. Besides studying grammar and learning new vocabulary, we tell each other stories of our home countries. I tell them about German Christmas markets or German food and they tell me stories about the school system in DRC or Somalia, or about their friends and families back home. I think they also like my English classes – they sometimes must be patient with me though, as English is not my mother tongue either.

Another big part of my work is the online job search. I spend 3 afternoons a week looking through the web and searching for jobs for the Scalabrini clients. It’s getting easier for me every week as I’m slowly learning what kind of jobs the people are looking for and what jobs are most suitable for them. Everything I find gets printed and can be found in folders in the waiting area at Scalabrini Centre. Most of our clients look through these folders before they get individual help from my colleagues at the Employment Help Desk.

I also like my Thursday mornings when I go up to our Health Clinic on the second floor. Gidon, Andre and their team in the Flying Needle Project provide free Acupuncture, Chinese Medicine and Energy Work to people with different health problems, with priority to HIV positive individuals. I stay with the people before they get their treatment, write down their data and just talk to them. At the moment, we also provide them with information about the H1N1 flu and other types of influenza and tell them how to prevent themselves from getting ill.

I can see that everybody at Scalabrini Centre is doing so much useful work in helping other people, and now that I am part of it, too, I can really feel that all the work is just so important, and fulfilling. By the end of the day, you really know what the time was for.

I am glad I can stay and work here until April. Actually, I don’t want to think about leaving South Africa and Cape Town and the Scalabrini Centre with all the nice people here. For me, it feels like home already – that’s how it should be, I guess.
-Bianca Durr

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