Law & Human Rights, Lawyer in South Africa by Vivian Garofalo
Vivian Garofalo has been a volunteer with Projects Abroad since March. She joined us for 3 months to volunteer at our Human Rights Project in Cape Town, South Africa. Being a teacher of law and business in Canada, Vivian has brought her knowledge and skills to the project and taken on the learning experience to make a great difference in her own life and the lives of others.
At the Human Rights Project, Vivian’s main focus has been on the legal side. With her eagerness to do some refugee work, Vivian has been given a number of cases in this particular field. “I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to research and prepare a heads of argument for a refugee appeal from start to finish”, reflects Vivian. Faced with the fact that refugees in South Africa do not have the network of social services that are available in some western countries, Vivian says, “In this way, you can make much more of a difference here.”
“Vivian was one of those Pro volunteers who really found her feet within a very short space of time - once she realised that Africa works at a very different pace to North America. She worked on numerous matters for us, concentrating on Refugee law. There are some huge challenges within this area in South Africa and she truly rose to the challenge with her tenacity, perseverance and dynamism. In fact, one of our clients comes in regularly to see Vivian as he is still in denial about her having left the office”, says Sanjay Hora, Legal Services Coordinator at the Projects Abroad Human Rights Office.
Besides the legal side, the Human Rights Project also offers a social justice division, dealing with different socio-economic groups and cultures. This includes visits to legal clinics in several townships, courts, police stations and refugee centres, as well as workshops in a youth detention facility and shelters. “It was a real eye-opener and showed me the many faces of Cape Town, it was certainly much more exposure than I had ever expected to get”, says Vivian.
Reflecting on her overall time volunteering Vivian says, “The Projects Abroad experience is a great opportunity to get meaningful experience in an area that volunteers are interested in exploring”. She was happy with the range and variety the project offers, and found it suitable for volunteers of all ages. “Whilst it is an extremely worthwhile experience for young people, it is equally valuable for more experienced professionals”, explains Vivian.
This passionate teacher has some valuable advice for future volunteers: “Don’t be afraid to take on whatever work comes your way. You can take on tasks that would probably never come your way in a larger, more bureaucratic organisation. If you persevere, your experience will be very rewarding”
We hope great stories like these inspire others to help Projects Abroad continue to make a difference and by doing so, learn something themselves along the way.