What other companies allow for their staff to take 3 months off to volunteer in South Africa? My company is a unique one in that they recognize the importance of giving back, and for me that’s with my time.
I am one month into my three months in South Africa and loving every minute of it. The benefit to working with a local organization is that I am immersed in the culture and daily lives of South Africans. I have the opportunity to work at Scalabrini, a refugee center in the heart of Cape Town. I am blown away at the passion and dedication of the fellow volunteers and staff that make this place possible. To prepare I read books on Nelson Mandela, paid attention to South African headlines, but nothing could have prepared me for the beautiful landscapes and friendly people I meet every day.
So far I have helped refugees from the D R Congo, Zimbabwe, and other parts of Africa create CV’s for job searches. I have gotten tissue for a mother who is being hassled by the infamous Home Affairs office and school where she wants to register her children but cannot get proper paperwork. Most clients come to Scalabrini because they have nowhere else to go and someone they know said this is the only place to get help. People wait literally all day to see someone and come back as often as they want. I am impressed at the level of human dignity that everyone seems to regain after their experience here. Scalabrini offers legal advocacy, job searching, English classes, emergency welfare, and life skills workshops. Check out their website for more information, http://www.scalabrini.org.za/
While Cape Town is a very developed city, there are also parts that are the absolute epitome of poor. I have been able to see and speak with people in all circumstances and from all backgrounds. I cannot begin to express how much I have learned and how my awareness of the world has grown. I have also spent time on tours and getting a chance to meet people from all parts of South Africa. For me it is so important to learn about the culture and politics on a ground level. I think a lot of people judge places when they go visit, for me it is just about learning how it is here, and hopefully being a small helpful part of a larger objective. I have met other volunteers from Brazil, India, Hawaii, and Holland. Everyday has been eye opening and monumental in terms of learning and experiencing new things.
As a company, McKinney Advisory Group, has made this trip possible. Not only allowing me to work remotely, and sparingly, I know the staff back at home are picking up the slack and filling in for me. Besides the logistics of the trip, the encouragement has been overwhelming! One of the amazing things about our office is that no one has been bitter about my “vacation” in fact I know most of them wish they could be in my shoes and experience the trip as well.
Rachel in Cape Town, South Africa