This post was written by Evie Markham
The transition from the university lecture theatre to interning with Oasis Belgium was a interesting and rewarding process. It is not until now when I reflect upon my time at Oasis Belgium that I have realised how much I have learnt. I am also able to acknowledge how much more difficult and complex the issues that Oasis Belgium work with are, as well as how important the work is.
In my three months here, it never felt like going to ‘work’ because every day was so different. The work ranged from visiting massage parlours around Belgium, accompanying ladies to social services and court cases, to giving a talk at a school about human trafficking and gender-based violence. Working at Oasis Belgium isn’t a 9-5 job, you have to really want to do it and I think it takes a passionate and driven person to stay positive and motivated, which describes the team at Oasis Belgium.
We drive sometimes over an hour to massage parlours to deliver communicational materials, newsletters in Thai written by one of the volunteers, and recently Christmas bags full of sweets and chocolates that were also made by one of the volunteers. It really is a team effort. Sometimes they don’t answer the door, sometimes they’re busy but sometimes we can enter the parlour and chat to them. If they let us enter or not, we will leave the materials so they know that were are there for them, if they need us.
On my first day I met A who had come to Belgium for marriage, but was now in an abusive relationship and wanted to get away. She wanted to stay in Belgium but without papers and with a young daughter, she made the difficult decision to return to her home country. We accompanied her to meeting with the IOM (International Organisation for Migration) and in my time here she returned to her home country. We have stayed in contact with her and continue to support her journey despite being on the other side of the world. The dedication of the team is something that never failed to amaze me, always going above and beyond.
Being an ‘intern’ often evokes images of lots of making tea and photocopying paper but my internship at Oasis involved much more than this. I feel like I’ve had responsibility, that I am trusted and that my opinion is valid and worth listening to. I was encouraged from the start to use my initiative and I don’t think I had the confidence to use it in the working environment before. This is definitely a personal skill that has developed whilst interning with Oasis Belgium. The wellbeing of staff and volunteers is something that is also taken seriously which is so important when working in the situations that Oasis do. In my time here I attended a meditation class and group counselling session and I was always encouraged to talk about the experiences we had.
Thank you to everyone from the volunteers, full-time staff and everyone I met in my three months at Oasis Belgium. I will now return to university for the last two semesters of my degree with enthusiasm, motivation and a deeper understanding of the complexities of working with often marginalised and vulnerable populations.