This summer, Saskia Bunschoten-Binet did an internship with AdvocAid. She very quickly got herself immersed in various aspects of our work and she became an invaluable support to the team. Thanks, Saskia, for all your hard work and dedication!
In this month’s contribution to our anniversary blog series, Saskia reflects upon her time working for AdvocAid.
As I am writing this blog, my two months interning at AdvocAid are coming to an end. I can’t help feeling both that I have been working here for years and that the time has gone past so quickly! For 8 weeks, I have been working as a Development Intern, helping AdvocAid’s Development Associate, Signe Roelsgaard, in her work and observing how the organisation works.
I am a student at Cambridge University, originally from London, and when I return to the UK, I will be entering my final and fourth year of Human, Social and Political Sciences.
Work got busy very quickly. After only three days, I went to an eventful meeting with Senior Police Officers from the Sierra Leone Police, where we showed clips of allegations against the police from a documentary AdvocAid is producing about Commercial Sex Workers. This was a fantastic way to get to the heart of what AdvocAid does. I saw how they support those in society, who are structurally marginalised and penalised in an unjust legal system, which is chronically underfunded. It was also the first time I saw the kind of bravery that those working for AdvocAid need to have. It requires strength, courage, and commitment to not only continuously advocate for those most vulnerable in society, but also to be able to present potentially controversial accusations to institutional bodies. In my time here, I have really learnt not to be afraid of people who may seem more important or senior then me, and to always stand your ground when you feel that something is not right.
One of the most interesting things I have experienced is seeing the work that my AdvocAid colleagues do, and I really learnt a lot form shadowing the paralegal work. To see a paralegal sit down with a woman, who has just been put in detention, explain her rights in the middle of a crowded and busy police station, and offer her support and counselling is very moving. Also, it was fascinating to see the kind of negotiating skills it requires to balance the difficult relationship of maintaining good terms with the officers whilst always pushing for what’s best for AdvocAid’s clients.
One other moment that particularly affected me was when I saw one of AdvocAid’s clients, who was charged with murder, being released. Having met the girl in question at court, I followed the concluding part of her case, and I saw our Duty Counsel fight hard for her in court. It was then quite a moment when, after having been acquitted and discharged, she walked into the AdvocAid office after a year-long trial.
It has been a real honour to work with such dedicated people and in an organisation that provides such important services to women and girls. I would particularly like to thank Signe Roelsgaard for her supervision and guidance, and Simitie Lavaly for allowing me to spend time at AdvocAid.
I will continue to volunteer for AdvocAid remotely, building up a network of supporters in the UK, so I know I am not leaving the AdvocAid fambul quite yet!
As part of our 10-year anniversary celebrations, every month for 10 months, we’ll be showcasing the best of AdvocAid through guest blogs from our staff, volunteers, partners and board members.