Cape Town intern Irene Gianotto looks back on her experience with Penda
I still remember deciding to become part of the cozy Penda family as a Marketing and Fundraising intern in Cape Town. It was something spontaneously quick. No second thoughts, no doubts: I wanted to book my flight and dive into this new adventure.
After Brazil now an Intern in Cape Town
It’s hard to say if I was really ready or not. I had just gotten back from a six-month academic experience in Rio de Janeiro. My heart was still full of memories, my head spinning around inebriated by the colors and sounds of the city. I knew I would start this experience continuously comparing it to the previous one, not sure if I wanted to ascertain that this could be as amazing. The kind of judgments you do when you start dating someone after the end of a long love story.
Still, I was eager to discover more about developing countries, and this time I was looking for a volunteer experience. I wanted to get my hands dirty and see what I could do after years of studying. Somehow, I felt like it was time for me to give back for all the beauty I was experiencing. I wanted to work with people and make an impact – or at least be part of an NGO that could do it.
The beginning was slow and a bit tough. Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town are cities of contrasts who ask to be embraced and forgiven multiple times. However, living in a place nestled between the ocean and the mountains made me feel at home quite soon. The weeks started to fly, and once more I was impressed by a human’s ability to adapt to different places and people. I created a new routine from scratch and became attached to it rapidly.
Incredible women in Cape Town
I fell in love with my job, and now I can see there was some kind of fil rouge (or pink?) connecting all my experiences. I’ve met so many incredible women from whom I was grateful to learn. My beautiful supervisor Marleen, the volunteers from the Happy Africa Foundation, Capetonian photographer Sarah Isaacs, all the girls and Mamas involved in the female empowerment projects, the ladies sharing the desk and the Cape Town Loft with me. I found myself silently following them, on tiptoes, happy to look at them, their lives, dreams, and aspirations. I captured as much as I could from their words, their shared thoughts, their way to look at the world. I’ve started dreaming again about a better place to live in, reflecting on humanity and all its shades, suddenly realizing this time my eyes were wide open. I was not dreaming anymore. It was my chance to do good.
I’ve met incredible people inside and outside the office. Moving out from your own country allows you to get lost and start traveling inside yourself. You have to question everything you’ve taken for granted so far. You know so many things are going to change as you get back. It is not always an easy journey, but definitely worth taking. Especially if you find some good company along the way!
In the right place at the right moment
During my experience in Cape Town, I’ve hugged lots of beautiful human beings, drank coffee with the kindest lady in Khayelitsha, traveled under the hottest sun and countless stars, got my feet wet in crystal waters, cried and laughed until I had tears in my eyes. I’ve seen the Milky Way coming out while sitting on a stone floating in the ocean, the stars standing out against a stark black sky. Every sunrise and sunset, I was falling more and more in love with the shades of the African sky turning orange and purple. I felt small, lucky and so grown up at the same time. Proud of myself and of what I was doing. I felt in the right place, at the right moment.
Once, a friend of mine told me the African sky is different from the one above the greyish buildings of Milan. It forces you to ask yourself who you are, who you want to be, and what your mission is on this planet. It looks deeper and wider. Now I know it’s true.