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NPO work - what's the point?

When you choose to work in the non-profit sector you are often bombarded with questions like “But, why?”, “What is the point?”, “What difference can you make?” and my personal favourite, “When are you going to get a ‘real’ job?” It can be tiresome, the hours are long, the work is demanding and you are often up against countless obstacles.

Then it happens, that one experience, one moment or one encounter that reminds you why you have chosen to work for justice. It can be a smile, a hug and a heartfelt ‘thank you’ from an elderly woman in a community or hearing a vulnerable child thank you and say, “I did not know someone like me could even be something, until now”. These moments stick with you and serve as a reminder that when you work in the non-profit sector, you are working towards something so much bigger!

These moments come when you least expect it, but also when you need them the most. At one of the Justice Desk Children’s Rights trainings, we were running in a vulnerable community, there was an encounter that cemented how important it is to share knowledge, create support structures and sometimes just be there to lend an ear. The training was a part of the lead up to the Justice Desk’s Month of the-Child campaign.

A young woman attended the training workshop with her 18-month-old son after having heard via word of mouth that we were going to be there. The young woman approached me and confided in me about her personal story of abuse. As she shared the details with me, you could see the relief on her face. She told me that everyone in her family had said that she was wrong and must just deal with it. She said that she knows something is wrong, she has not had a proper education but she knows that her children are being hurt and she also knows that she can do something about it now.

She had recognised how the current abuse herself and her two children were going through were violations of human/ children’s rights. The training coordinator and I managed to organise her a safe transit and referral and she is now in a place of safety along with her two sons where the allegations of abuse are being handled, legally.

People are always shocked by statistics or cannot believe the numbers but there is something to be said about hearing a first-hand account of abuse. Unfortunately, this young woman and her children were victims of abuse just like many millions of women and children today, but we can do something about it!

Hearing about the pain and suffering experienced by people, never gets easier. However, believing in the strength and power of human resilience certainly does. So, when people ask me when I am going to get a ‘real job’ I look them straight in the eyes and I tell them, “I already have one, and it is making a difference!”

The work we do at the Justice Desk, our trainings and educational materials all helped in this particular case, but at the end of the day it was because one person was willing to listen, share knowledge and support, and you know what? Every single person is capable of doing just that. If we all play our part, if we all stop ‘believing nothing will ever change’, and start focusing on being the change, we can make a difference. We can make sure more people receive the help and support they need and we can work towards building a society that promotes human rights!

Kayla Brittan

Operations Manager

The Justice Desk, Cape Town

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