Zoe Samama recently completed her work experience with us – have a read of what she got up to.
Over the past year, the world has experienced a series of shocking events. From the triggering of article 50 to the election of Trump, now, more than ever, the importance of organisations like René Cassin is frightfully clear. With the political world in turmoil and a complete lack of government direction and control – particularly in Britain – nobody knows what the future holds. Nobody knows what politicians stand for – whether they will uphold human rights and fight for them, or whether they will adopt a laissez-faire approach, allowing cases of human trafficking and slavery to go unchecked.
I applied for work experience at René Cassin not only so that I could do my part to help, but also so that I could see the inner-workings of this monumental organisation and experience first-hand how their operations benefit people every day. My email requesting an opportunity to get involved was met by the team with enthusiasm – and throughout the week I’ve been here everyone has been very welcoming and helpful.
Coming in, I had no idea what to expect (okay, that’s not strictly true; I was under the impression I would be making coffee and filing!) But instead, I was given an important role and far more responsibility than I had anticipated. I was given tasks that allowed me to make a contribution to René Cassin’s work, as well as develop new skills. While daunting at first, I believe the experience was invaluable, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to volunteer here.
I was given the chance to explore the attitudes of the media, and the way they report on human rights issues. For example, a Daily Mail article wrote about the fact that smuggling refugees into the country “’completely undermined’ the immigration system”. To me it seems the focus of this article is wrong – it considered the prosecution of the smugglers, not the presumably dire circumstances that had forced 22 people into paying to be smuggled into another country in search of a better life.
I also investigated and explored ways in which René Cassin could expand and spread awareness of key human rights issues among young adults. I researched the possibility of introducing projects into more schools, adapting the organisations work with Jewish youth movements to work with people my age – to educate the future generation about the work that needs to be done, and the human rights issues that still need to be tackled.
I was also given the opportunity to attend a meeting with Asylum Aid, in which the issue of statelessness was addressed. Asylum Aid and the European Network on Statelessness work in part with stateless people in detention – an area that overlaps with René Cassin’s work. This introduced me to a human rights issue I knew very little about as well as allowing me to meet new people and see the relationship between different charitable organisations.
The highlight of my week, however, was attending the Barnet Multi-Faith Forum’s AGM at which Mia, the director of René Cassin, was guest speaker. She spoke on modern day slavery, responding to Theresa May’s statement last year that it is “the greatest human rights issue of our time”. Her speech was inspirational, and to me, it seemed to reveal her passion for what she does, and further emphasised the importance and invaluable work of NGOs and charities.
I greatly look forward to continued involvement with René Cassin, and would encourage any one interested in human rights issues and law to explore volunteer opportunities and internships.
By Zoe Samama
If you are interested in doing work experience with René Cassin, email [email protected]
 Statelessness is defined in the 1954 Statelessness Convention as someone who is “not considered as anational by any State under the operation of its law”