Personal and Professional Challenges in Cape Town
When Hélène left Belgium to begin a new adventure in Cape Town, she already knew it would be a big experience. Now that it’s already her last week at the office, she knows for sure it turned out to be more than that. Her Communications and Fundraising internship in Cape Town at Sunshine Cinema taught her valuable things on a professional level for sure, but also on a personal level. This whole adventure has been a major life-changing experience for her. And now she shares her story with us.
The Story behind the solar-powered Cinema
Sunshine Cinema is a non-profit organization founded by Sydelle Willow Smith and her husband Rowan Pybus. This powerful duo has run the business since 2013. The story of Sunshine Cinema is so admirable that I really want to start my blog post to share it with you. A couple of years ago Makhulu, another organization founded by Rowan making movies with social value, met a Zambian man Lloyd Maanyina. Lloyd had worked his whole life as a charcoal burner. Charcoal is an important source of fuel in Africa but is, unfortunately, also one of the main reasons for deforestation in Zambia.
Lloyd decided to quit his job and started a tree nursery. Together with the tree planting, a seed was planted to begin a new organization. They were so inspired by the story of Lloyd and wanted to spread it to more people. In Africa, a lot of areas are facing load shedding and electricity issues, and there is only a small percentage who can afford to go to the cinema. BAM! A concept was born: Sunshine Cinema, a solar-powered cinema that does free screenings of local, African movies in rural areas.
The movies they screen make people aware of different problems their community is facing, such as land rights, female empowerment, HIV, LGBTQ, etcetera. After the movies, the sunbox ambassadors (these are young activists that facilitate the screenings) try to start an inspiring conversation with the audience and that’s how Sunshine Cinema really makes a difference.
A warm welcome to start my Communications and Fundraising Internship
When I started to apply for my internship at the Sunshine Cinema, they happened to be on a road trip. During that road trip, they met their new sunbox ambassadors and did a series of big screenings in South Africa, Zambia and Botswana. As the internet connection can be challenging, we never really had a chance to speak to each other. Although I didn’t really know where I would end up on my first day, I had a very positive feeling around the organization.
I think this was partly because on my first day Sydelle invited me to have breakfast with herself and Noni, the project manager of Sunshine Cinema who lives in Johannesburg but was in town during my first week. She was also the person who picked me up at my accommodation and walked with me to the place for our meeting. As I was so nervous, I already was already waiting outside at 8.40 in the morning, looking at everyone on the street with questioning eyes.
If I think back at it, I think all these people would really have felt awkward that a stranger like me stared at them! Five minutes later I shook the hand of Noni and we left to meet Sydelle. We went to the cosiest square in Cape Town and as I saw her waiting for us my heart went wild. I reached my hand, but she refused to shake it. Instead, she gave me a big hug. “How are you, it’s so nice to finally meet you!”.
Challenging me every day to bring out the best in me
This vibe is actually the vibe that was present during my whole internship. Sydelle and Rowan run the office at their house so you can imagine they approach you in a very informal and personal way. I worked alternately at the dining table, at a desk or in the garden, meetings are held on the couch. Can you hire me, please? Before I put up the wrong image: this doesn’t mean you don’t work in a professional setting! They know what they want and are both very skilled. During my internship, they’ve challenged me every day to bring out the best in me.
The main part of my time focused on putting up a new social media strategy, implementing it and evaluate the outcomes. Together with Sydelle, I looked for a new approach and I can say the new strategy I designed is really starting to pay off – the Google analytics insights are looking very positive across all the social media platforms.
Rowan, on the other hand, discovered the designer I never knew was in me. I learned how to work with Photoshop and other designing programs. Something I never had done during my education so this really added value to my professional expertise. Next to that, I also helped with the fundraising, creating content, refreshing and restyling the website and made information sheets for sponsors and filmmakers. My job task was very various, very challenging and therefore very fascinating.
Intern life in Cape Town
I also took some time to explore the city. Cape Town is a very vibrant city and you will find always something fun to do. My personal highlight, and you can take this literally, was my hike to Table Mountain. To be honest, everyone who knows me a bit knows I am not a very sporty girl and my fitness condition is zero. So the hike was a real personal challenge. I had a hard time to get to the top but once I got there, it was so worth it! Although there are a lot of tourists, it is the perfect place to settle down. I was really impressed by the beautiful nature and the breathtaking views you have of the city.
My time here has been an eye-opener and my perspective on a lot of things changed. The internship made me independent and changed me in a good way. It’s not easy to be so far away from home but I never really felt homesick. That’s because everyone here in Cape Town is so friendly and kind. The city really stole my heart. I know for sure I will come back to South Africa. This internship let me grow in various ways and I am so thankful for everything I’ve seen and done during my time in Cape Town.
Thank you Roots, thank you Sunshine Cinema!
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