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It was my first real day at work. The previous day, I had shadowed the person I would be filling in for at the Employment Access Programme Help Desk and attended some orientation sessions. But that day, I would actually be contributing to the office, and doing what I came to Cape Town to do.

It didn’t start out the way I would have liked, though. There wasn’t enough space in the car to take me and my other Duke Engage group member, so we decided to walk with the rest of the group who worked near us. Besides the fact that this was our first time making the trip to work on foot, the South African State of the Nation Address was that day. Meaning, there were (too) many roads that were blocked off.

To say we got lost was an understatement. We found our way by remembering random landmarks – for example, we recognized the apartment complex that one of our co-workers lived in, which was right behind our office building and followed that general direction. With a lot of guessing, we made it to work an hour late, and were greeted with the snickers and laughs from our supervisors. One of them even shouted “I knew it!” when we described why we were so late, which made us all laugh more.

But once the laughing was over, we were immediately pushed into work. We were tasked with helping clients with anything they needed – setting up an email address, applying for jobs, fixing their CVs, making copies of documents, etc. One client of mine in particular, a black woman from Nigeria, put me to work – I was so happy to help out. I helped her fix her new email address, update her CV, and make copies of all of her documents. I easily spent 45 minutes with her, and she was a great person to communicate with on my first true work day.

What I appreciated the most about this interaction and others during that day was the direct impact I was able to make on the clients I served. From what I have heard from my other group members, previous NGOs they have worked with treated them as a burden, and didn’t make sure they got to do anything substantial for the organization. Clearly, Scalabrini is the exact opposite of those organizations, and I’m so grateful. I love that Scalabrini has given me the opportunity to interact one-on-one with their clients and provide them with the help that they need. Additionally, knowing that I will always have something to do eased the worries I had about being useless in the organization. Most importantly, this experience gives me so much more excitement about the things that I will be able to do at Scalabrini, and the potential relationships that I will make with some of the clients. I truly couldn’t ask for a better organization to intern for this summer.