Where are you from and what is your field of interest?
My name is Kudakwashe Kuhlengisa and I am from Zimbabwe. I moved to Cape Town in 2016 to pursue my interest in issues affecting the refugee and migrant populations in South Africa. I studied Sociology and have narrowed down my focus to migration studies, and hope to continue in this field.
What were you doing before coming to SA and volunteering at the Scalabrini Centre?
I have been in South Africa for 9 years now. I initially came to South Africa to study and I completed my Masters in Sociology at the University of Johannesburg in 2014. I then moved to Cape Town after that. The Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town is my first real work experience after completing my studies.
What have you learned since joining the Scalabrini Centre?
I have gained a better understanding of the challenges that refugees in South Africa face in accessing employment, education and other basic needs. I have started to think more critically about these issues.
What have been challenges since joining the Scalabrini Centre?
The language barrier, I do not speak French and most clients I interact with speak French and that makes it hard to communicate with them sometimes. This means I sometimes have to spend more time with the client to fully understand what it is that they need assistance with given the language barrier between us.
What qualities does one need to have to work in an environment such as this one?
You have to take time to listen very carefully to each individual that comes through to the Centre and be patient with each and every one of them. You come across and interact with so many people a day who need your help – so you must be passionate about this work. You have to be energetic and a quick thinker with problem-solving skills. Sometimes just having a smile on your face and encouraging a client in situations where you are unable to assist can make a lot of difference.
How has your position at the Scalabrini Centre helped you grow both professionally and personally?
Professionally I have acquired a lot of skills in the two programmes I have worked in, the Employment Access Programme and the English School. I have acquired office administration skills, data capturing and management skills, communication skills, writing skills, teaching skills as well as problem-solving skills.
I have always enjoyed teaching and facilitating and being at the Scalabrini Centre has given me a chance to enhance this skill. I have great mentors who continue to teach, guide and challenge me to do work I have never done before and through this experience, I am continuously growing on the professional front. Personally, I’ve built friendships with many people from all corners of the world and got to learn about their diverse cultures too.
Describe a perfect day on the job?
At the moment, I am working in the Employment Access Programme. A perfect day for me is when I am able to write and finish 3 CVs for new clients in the morning, provide them with important information on all the other services at the Scalabrini Centre and still be able to catch up with all my administration work in the afternoon.
What are some of your most memorable moments working at the Scalabrini Centre?
My memorable moments within the Employment Access Programme are the success stories I have had with clients. Having clients come back to you and tell you they’ve found a job you helped them apply for is a memorable moment.
Someone taking the time to come to the Centre and thank you for helping them secure a job always makes you feel appreciated and encourages one to do more.
Would you recommend friends back home to volunteer at the Scalabrini Centre and why?
Yes. The experience here is very rewarding in terms of professional growth. You gain valuable work experience. You also contribute significantly to improve the lives of refugees, something that I personally think is fulfilling.
Did you experience any culture shock as an intern integrating into the Scalabrini Center yourself?
Yes, I had a little bit of a culture shock when I started out at the Centre. Even though I was familiar with the scope of the work before coming in, dealing with huge volumes of people who need assistance from the Scalabrini Centre on a daily basis was demanding in the beginning. I had to learn to adjust to the pressure that comes with the work. The interns and staff members have been really supportive and within no time, I adjusted to the work environment and its pressures.
What is the one thing you’d like everyone to know about the Scalabrini Centre?
The team here is very dedicated and the Scalabrini Centre affords people opportunities to gain valuable work experience. Basic human rights are at the core of the work that the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town is doing.
Generally, how are you finding Cape Town?
Cape Town is an amazing place to be. I have always wanted to live in Cape Town, and there are many outdoor activities to do. You can never run out of things to do in Cape Town. The people are great too. You meet people from all parts of the world who also want to experience all the wonderful things that the city has to offer.
What’s different about SA compared to your home country which you’d like to take back home with you?
There is a lot of political unrest in Zimbabwe. The economy is unstable and there are high levels of unemployment. There is lack of social security for the vulnerable, and the NGO/NPO sector has collapsed. South Africa has a strong civil society that can confront or absorb some of the problems emanating from political instability. This is something I wish I could take back home so that peace and political stability can be restored.
What are your future plans?
I want to continue working with refugees and migrants. I am going to look for work in a similar organisation. My dream is to work within the United Nations one day.