"I relished the challenges and adventures my placement brought. This job and time in Cape Town taught me so much about the practical realities of politics and how the international theory we learn about in lectures plays out in reality."
Lucy Doggett completed her placement year in South Africa where she worked at the Cape Town Refugee Centre.
"I did my placement at the Cape Town Refugee Centre (CTRC), an partner to the UN Refugee Agency, providing assistance to the 35,000 refugees in Cape Town.
The Centre is a South African non-profit organisation that works with vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers in the Western Cape. They offer a range of support mechanisms, taking in educational, psychological and emotional needs, and work with a number of key organisations to facilitate the integration of refugees and asylum seekers into South African society as quickly and easily as possible.
I had lived in South Africa for almost two years in my gap years and so was keen to find a placement there. When I found this placement and was offered the internship, I was ecstatic! Within a few weeks I was completely at home and having an amazing time. I lived in an area called Observatory, full of students and artists, a mix of people and a crazy, vibrant place to be.
The refugee centre has many facets to its work and assists refugees according to particular needs. This might mean assistance with rent and food or be about providing funding to start a business or payment of tuition fees for vocational college courses such as nursing or welding.
The centre also pays medical fees, gives trauma counselling and is the referral point for those needing a bed in a shelter.
They see mainly refugees from Somalia, Zimbabwe and the DRC but also have people from Burundi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Malawi and other African nations. I resurrected my French for the Somalis, the Swahili I learnt living in Swaziland for the Zimbabweans, and picked up more Afrikaans and Xhosa from my office colleagues.
The day I started I was thrown in the deep end - it was a difficult job as you have to make a call on how to assist that person, and to make sure that assistance helps them become self-sufficient rather than dependent. It could be emotionally draining but it was so rewarding to see people take control of the potential in their lives.
A month in, I was moved into a research project which saw me making a database of every business funded over the last four years and visiting them to see how those businesses were doing now. I wrote a report and made a proposal on how the UNHCR business grants can be better distributed to have a greater impact on the families and communities.
I am interested in understanding the impact on people of international humanitarian assistance in the form of aid and grants so this project was ideal for me. It showed me that the money coming in from the UN does have a real impact on people’s lives.
The people I worked with were some the best people I have ever known, the office was full of laughter, we had Afrikaners, English, international interns, Xhosas, and a few former refugees. I loved the mix of humour and culture. There was so much enthusiastic for life here and we enjoyed experiencing each other’s cultures. We cooked lunch together in the office a few times a week, went to African Rap slams in the townships and had many braais all over Cape Town. We became family!
I relished the challenges and adventures my placement brought. This job and time in Cape Town taught me so much about the practical realities of politics and how the international theory we learn about in lectures plays out in reality. I would highly recommend doing a placement. I gained so much from stepping outside of the academic environment into a real-life politicised experience in Africa."
Find out more about our politics programmes.