Georgia Morgan is a recipient of the Global Gap Year Fellowship at the University of North Carolina, USA. Her fellowship allows her to travel around the world doing charity work with organizations of her choice pursuing her fields of interest. She has been interning with the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town for the past 3 months. Below is Georgia’s bio.
Where are you from and what is your field of interest?
I am from Cary, North Carolina. My fields of interest are human rights, environmental issues, music and photography.
What were you doing before coming to SA and volunteering at the Scalabrini Centre?
Before coming to SA and volunteering at Scalabrini, I was in high school. I graduated from Apex High School in June 2017 and I am able to travel this year through my university (The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). They offer a gap year programme called the Global Gap Year Fellowship which allows 8 rising freshman to take a gap year of service abroad. I applied for and received this fellowship early this year, and my first stop is here in Cape Town with the Scalabrini Centre!
What have you learned since joining the Scalabrini Centre?
I have learned so much since joining the Scalabrini Centre. For one, I’ve become a lot more aware of and knowledgeable about the refugee and migrant crisis going on here in Cape Town. I’ve become a lot more sensitive to the complexities of getting appropriate documentation and status as a foreigner in South Africa, and all the challenges that can come as a result of a lack of an ID or documentation. In addition, I’ve learned how to be extremely patient and compassionate with the clients that we see, especially when teaching classes or in the process of trying to explain something to them in a language that is not their native tongue.
What have been challenges since joining the Scalabrini Centre?
One of my biggest challenges here at the Scalabrini Centre has been learning to be completely and utterly patient with clients and to let go of those things that I have no control over. Some days, it can be very hard to teach entry-level computer courses to 10+ adults that have never used a computer before and stand in completely different levels of computer knowledge. Even though everyone wants to soak up as much information as possible, they also want to hold your hand through every step of the process, which is impossible as a single teacher in a classroom of ten or more clients.
It can also be frustrating when students arrive extremely late to class or don’t bring their materials because it slows me down as the teacher – you end up juggling helping the one student catch up while helping the other students who are on a different task. However, I’m reminded of the circumstances; a lot of clients that we see travel far to get to the centre, transportation is unreliable, and each person carries a heavy weight on their shoulders as a result of their personal journey to this point in their lives. Sometimes it’s hard for me to honour their situations by giving them the best and most patient version of myself when these frustrations arise and I bear the information of their challenging pasts/ current circumstances.
What qualities does one need to have to work in an environment such as this one?
To work in a setting like the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town, one has to be open-minded, flexible, adaptive, patient, understanding, communicative, and able to problem solve on the spot.
How has your position at the Scalabrini Centre helped you grow both professionally and personally?
My position at the Scalabrini Centre has definitely given me insight into how nonprofit organizations function. It’s helped me improve my communication and teaching skills. I’ve also gotten a lot better at data entry, organization, and planning ahead for my changing schedule. Personally, my position here has, again, helped me become more patient, compassionate, communicative and grateful.
Describe a perfect day on the job.
A perfect day on the job is when the internet is working quickly, clients have everything they need for their Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP), all my students show up on time for class and are fun and engaging.
What are some of your most memorable moments working at the Scalabrini Centre?
Some of my most memorable moments working at the Scalabrini Center- helping out with UNITE with Jade and the kids singing me Happy Birthday; teaching Digital Literacy with Michael; working ZEP alone and helping all 15 clients; teaching my first Woman’s Platform computer class on my own; Hope Street Market on Thursday’s; Hylton’s contagious laugh.
Would you recommend friends back home to volunteer at the Scalabrini Centre and why?
I would definitely recommend friends (or future University of North Carolina Global Gap Year Fellows) to come volunteer with the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town. If they want a first-hand experience of what it’s like to work for a nonprofit and/ or with refugees. A great experience that will most definitely challenge you and help you learn and grow without any previous experience required.
Did you experience any culture shock as an intern integrating into the Scalabrini Centre yourself?
To some extent, yes I did experience some culture shock. I expected the shock, sure, but hearing some of the client’s stories and backgrounds is very intense. In some cases devastating. It can be quite challenging hearing these stories and feel “okay” about it. So yes, I guess the shock came in when I began hearing the specific experiences, challenges and devastations that our clients face.
What is the one thing you’d like everyone to know about the Scalabrini Centre?
The one thing that I think everyone should know about the Scalabrini Centre is that it is filled with dedicated staff and volunteers. They will go above and beyond to help our clients in any shape and form. They may not be able to “fix” every single problem, but they will most definitely give it 110% to try and help those that are willing to work hard with Scalabrini.
Generally, how are you finding Cape Town?
Cape Town is very different from anywhere I’ve ever visited and lived! It is absolutely stunning to say the least. It is also so rich with culture and diversity. Everyone I’ve met has been so friendly and welcoming. The only thing I find hard to accept is the great disparity between the wealth and poverty. The two extremes stare each other in the face daily, and it’s quite strange. There’s no balance.
What’s different about SA compared to your home country which you’d like to take back home with you?
In Cape Town, there is such a large sense of community and family. People will always talk to you and try to get to know you to find something in common. Food and language bring people together here. All of our clients are especially eager to learn and grow, and I would really love to carry that mentality home with me.
What are your future plans?
I leave South Africa in just under 3 weeks now, which will complete my 3-month internship with the Scalabrini Centre. After this, I will be going home for about a month, and then I’ll spend another 3 months in Agadir, Morocco, interning with another nonprofit organisation dedicated to human rights and environmentalism. After that, I will start university in mid- August at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.