Yesterday was my first day as an intern at PASSOP, and I am already in love!
PASSOP is a not-for-profit human rights organisation devoted to fighting for the rights of asylum-seekers, refugees, and immigrants in South Africa. “Passop” is an Afrikaans word that means “beware,” and they later added the acronym “People Against Suffering, Oppression, and Poverty.” The organisation was started by Braam Hanekom in his mother’s basement in 2007 and has since expanded to a full staff and office in Wynberg.
PASSOP is currently working on a variety of projects, which include LGBTI advocacy, disabled children support, solidarity education, monitoring the dispensation of Zimbabwean refugees, and more. My project right now is to write articles about members of the LGBTI community who have fled to South Africa in search of a place where they can safely express their sexuality. Through their stories, we hope to expose the reality that Cape Town (and South Africa) is not the haven it claims to be while pushing for better LGBTI rights for sexual refugees. We are planning to publish these stories into prominent magazines.
The refugees I am writing about have such unbelievable stories, it is a wonder that many of them are still alive and made it to South Africa. But my fascination with PASSOP doesn’t end with just my project. The PASSOP staff is unbelievable and many are immigrants themselves. I was only at work for two hours, but I feel like I have already learned so much just by listening to my new co-workers and absorbing everything around me. Braam drove me and two other interns home, and during the drive he did a radio interview over the phone! He spoke about the new policies the South African government announced a few days regarding Zimbabwean refugees. He is listed as one of the Top 100 Most Influential Leaders in South Africa, and after only spending such a little bit of time with him I can see why.
I work again tomorrow and I am really looking forward to what another day has in store for me. This definitely won’t be your typical internship! My work with PASSOP will help me connect so much deeper with my new home while at the same time giving me firsthand experience with the field I hope to work in after college.
For those of you who want to learn more about the organisation, here is their website: http://www.passop.co.za/
Side note: All four of the American University students studying here at UCT decided to intern with PASSOP. Is anyone surprised?