Professor Buske asked me to write a wrap-up post for the blog and I have to admit I have put it off for quite a while. It is difficult to put into a couple of paragraphs the impact this experience has had on my life.
First, I want to start by thanking Professor Buske for including me on such an amazing trip. There is only so much that can be taught in a classroom. It is one thing to sit in a room and talk about how the law effects lives, but it has a totally different impact to see it in person. I can genuinely say that I have taken away and learned more from Professor Buske and from this experience than any other educational opportunity that I have had. I will forever be indebted to her for the investment she made in my life. She challenged me to think outside of my worldview and showed me firsthand how the law can improve the lives of people living in some of the darkest situations. It was fascinating to see how Professor Buske’s work with “Mkombozi” (an advocacy organization for street children in Arusha, Tanzania) directly improved and continues to improve the lives of street children. This trip further solidified my desire to use my law degree to serve the underserved, both domestically and internationally.
I thought it would be a cool to wrap up my blog post with my trip “high” and “low.” Each night, Professor Buske and I would share our “high” and “low” for the day- it was a really great way for us to process all that we were thinking and feeling. While each day proved to be intellectually enlightening, some days were very emotionally challenging. My low point of the trip was while we were at the “Sunflower House” in Bloemfontein, South Africa. Sunflower House is primarily a hospice home for terminally ill children. As I sat on the floor tossing a ball back and forth with one of the toddlers, it hit me that some of these little children might not be here in a year, or even a couple of months. It took everything I had inside to push the tears from my eyes. I didn’t want them to see me crying. The last thing they needed was to see more sadness in their lives. As I continued to toss the ball back and forth, I kept thinking that this was what AIDS looks like. I struggled with how this child, so full of life and ripe with potential, could be sentenced to battle through such a horrible disease, that would ultimately take his little life. I thought about how the law affords so many protections, yet fails to ensure that little ones like this receive ARV drugs. It seemed so unfair – that technology has come so far, yet there is no cure for this disease.
On the other hand, it is really hard to pick just one “high” point of my trip. I have thought a lot about this and I think I would have to say my high was probably the conference on Intercountry Adoption at the University of the Free State. It was such an amazing experience to sit on a panel of professionals, including Professor Buske and a South African Constitutional Court Judge, and discuss the implications of intercountry adoption for South Africa. I was honored to have the opportunity to take part in the “Q&A” session and to share some of my personal knowledge from having worked as a social worker in intercountry adoption before starting law school. The discussion that day challenged some of my core views of intercountry adoption and motivated me to further explore how the law can ensure that children’s best interest are always protected.
I want to wrap up by saying thank-you to Charlotte School of Law for pursing the development of African Programs and for allowing me to be first the student to participate. Programs like this truly exemplify the Charlotte School of Law mission pillars: serving the underserved, being practice ready and student-centered! I can truly say I am proud to be a student at a school that supports such programs. I wish that every student had the opportunity to experience something as wonderful as I did this summer. I am so excited about the work CSL will do in Africa in the future and as a “soon-to-be” Alumni of this school, I am committed to helping with the development of these programs in any way possible.