First Day at PASSOP

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?

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Help Wanted

I need your help! I am going to volunteer regularly with a local organization while I am here in Cape Town, but I can’t decide which one to choose! Here are the ones I have narrowed it down to:

  • Brooklyn Chest TB Hospital – A hospital funded by the Department of Health which assists children and patients from disadvantaged communities who are suffering from TB and cannot afford better treatment. I would be working in the school or Pediatrics ward, which has about 40 babies. Volunteer hours are in the afternoon. *I was able to visit this site and playing with the kids was so much fun, but I’m not sure if I want this opportunity to have a larger advocacy role and that probably wouldn’t happen here.
  • Young in Prison – YiP offers creative, recreational, and educational programming for incarcerated youth in order to make beneficial use of their time in prison. There seems to be a bit of flexibility in the times of this program depending on your goals, but actually working in the prison would be a morning job. I would work with about 15-20 kids and have a 3:1 ratio of volunteers to youths.
  • Passop – Passop is a grassroots human rights non-profit devoted to protecting the rights of asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants in South Africa. They work to foster education and community participation as well as provide workshops. *This opportunity sounds amazing because it would allow for a lot of first hand work with advocacy campaigns and is flexible as far as what you can work on and what times you can work. My slight problem is that I won’t engage with many South Africans… but I will be with lots of other African people so it still is a great opportunity.
Any input you have would be greatly appreciated!!