Amber Ditz is the communications intern at the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town. Before joining the team at Scalabrini, Amber travelled to countries such as Vietnam, Japan and Scotland. She has previously worked for Affiliate Marketing Business and enjoys photography as a hobby. Below Amber talks about her time and experience at the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town.
Where are you from and what is your field of interest?
I am from the Netherlands and my field of interest for work is International Organized Crime.
What were you doing before coming to SA and volunteering at the Scalabrini Centre?
I graduated in September 2016, after which I decided to go and travel. Eventually, I had to go back home and start applying for jobs. That is when I noticed that Scalabrini was hiring a communications intern.
How did you find out about the Scalabrini Centre? What made you choose to volunteer at the Scalabrini Centre?
I found out about Scalabrini from a previous intern, who posted something about Scalabrini on Facebook. I travelled to Cape Town in February 2017 and knew immediately I loved the place. My thesis which I wrote for my Master’s degree in Political Science was about the integration of migrants in the Netherlands. I thought the work of the centre would really go well with my personal interest on the topic of migrants and asylum seekers and my love for South Africa, so I decided to apply for a volunteer internship here!
What have you learned since joining Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town?
My journey at Scalabrini has taught me many things on a personal but also professional level. Personally, the obvious lesson has been that learning from textbooks and academic journals does not allow you to grasp the situation and deal with the everyday circumstances and difficulties clients of the Scalabrini Centre experience. During my time here I noticed the many hardships NGOs and their employees face when trying to assist individuals. It always seems you are swimming upstream when the rest of the fish are going downstream.
What have been challenges since joining Scalabrini Centre?
The main challenge for me is accepting the limitations of my work, while also being proud of the smaller or maybe everyday achievements. I knew when I started this Internship I would have to rely on myself and be very independent. It can be very challenging at times but because it is mostly your own input, it can also be very rewarding.
What qualities does one need to have to work in an environment such as this one?
You have to be caring enough to want to work within an NGO environment. But you also have to be able to leave your work at the workplace. This means that regardless of the many problems you might face in a day, you also have to be resilient enough to block it out of your thoughts. For this position, you also have to be extremely creative as you are limited with your resources and I think the main quality you must have is a sense of pride for the work you do. When I talk to other people they always seem to be hanging onto certain stereotypes regarding NGO’s, there is always a negative connotation: “How much of a difference are you actually going to make?” “You will never earn a lot of money in this industry.” But regardless of such comments, I am proud to be working here and I am proud of the work the centre does!
How has your position at the Scalabrini Centre helped you grow on a professional level?
Professionally I love working in an environment which is so welcoming and caring. A good deed a day does go a long way. I have been allowed to create and be responsible for many projects, which really has allowed me to grow as a person. Corporate rules and norms and values don’t apply here (which I love) and receiving a hug or a compliment about the work that you do, means so much more in this context.
Describe a perfect day on the job.
Planning big communication projects and then seeing them come to realization. Some days, a perfect day on the job is me writing a piece and taking pictures for any of the Scalabrini programmes, because the feedback is always positive and rewarding.
What are some of your most memorable moments working with the Communications Team?
On my first day here Lotte gave me a hug; I was not expecting that at all and it was by far the nicest welcome I have ever had. Also, for the Outreach Series, with the Welfare Team, I went out to interview a lady who was staying near Belleville in a camp. It impacted me much more than I would have ever imagined and it gave me a better understanding how much of an impact you can have on an individual’s life – by simply being prepared to make a difference.
Would you recommend friends back home to volunteer at the Scalabrini Centre and why?
Yes definitely. Rather than spending time on applying for internships at the UN or Amnesty or the Red Cross, I would say go and do your internship at Scalabrini where you make an actual impact. The team is big enough for you to learn many new things and it will also allow you to work in a challenging and culturally diverse work environment.
Did you experience any culture shock as an intern integrating into the Scalabrini Centre yourself?
Not really. I think the most shocking is the constant reminder of the enormous gap between the rich and poor in the SA society. The Centre is filled with people from all kinds of different nationalities, so in that sense, it is really no different than working in any other international work environment.
Generally, how are you finding Cape Town?
Love it! It will be hard going back home.
What hobbies do you enjoy doing as a form of relaxing in your spare time?
In my spare time I enjoy going on hikes. South Africa has so much beautiful hiking spots I could stay forever. I enjoy doing CrossFit, which is pretty challenging with the weather conditions here. During work hours, you will definitely see me eating a large variety of dishes, but I enjoy exploring all that Cape Town has to offer so I often go out to new restaurants.
What is the one thing you’d like everyone to know about Scalabrini Centre?
I would like everyone to know that a smaller organization like the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town makes a much bigger impact than most people ever imagine. With corruption scandals and missing money surrounding big NGOs nowadays, I feel that organizations like the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town are undervalued. The impact and work of the organisation is huge and for me that is a big positive.
What’s different about South Africa compared to your home country which you’d like to take back home with you?
If I could take back some mountains, the ocean views and the beautiful wildlife that South Africa has and combine that with the sense of humour people have here, I would be a happy person.
What are your future plans?
For now, I am keeping all my options open. I might come back to Cape Town or I might move to another country. I feel blessed to have experienced all that SA has to offer, I followed my heart and will continue to do so.