Liberian Temple of Justice: "Let Justice be Done to All"
HRUSA's Piper Hendricks blogs from Liberia as she meets with HRUSA's clients and undergoes extensive document collection. On her first full day in Liberia, she meets with some of the clients, prepares for visa interviews, and avoids the downpours of the rainy season...
Great first day in Liberia! With help from folks at the Carter Center, I was able to meet one of our clients across town (longer-distance movement is not always easy here), get a cell phone here up and running (which is a critical mode of communication as everyone uses cell phones - the rare landlines are only at some of larger agencies and ministries), prepare for a visa interview tomorrow, gain a sense of the geography (and, with local drivers, learn much about the history of various neighborhoods) and visit a hospital to discuss available records. Oh, and stop by a local fruit stand on the way back to buy grapefruit and marvel at the purple avocados…all while avoiding the unseasonably hard rainfalls (there‘s no debate here over whether climate change is a problem). The second downpour just began and I’m safely indoors updating declarations - and you, our wonderful supporters.
After months of phone calls (carefully timed to reach people in network as rainy season clouds allowed), it’s wonderful to see our clients in person. They were tickled by the recorded greetings all of us at HRUSA prepared and sent via camcorder (isn’t technology great?) and are pleased to have more concrete preparations for the December trial underway. One client, “R,” is so diligent that when I suggested this afternoon that we take a break for lunch, he looked at me with surprise and said, “No, we must keep working!” So we split the protein bar in my bag and back to work we went. There is no “trying slow” here! (Expressions in other countries are delightful and Liberia is no exception so I’m trying to learn as many as I can while I’m here. “Trying slow” means one is putting in much effort but the results are slow in coming.)
Work in this setting is incredibly rewarding and exciting in a way that can’t be duplicated in the States. Here, our clients are more like partners than clients - they know the country, the places, the people, and the way to get things done and are absolutely invaluable. The feeling of working together toward justice and contributing to the positive outcome of their own case is one I believe we are all enjoying.
In the evening, I had the opportunity to meet with several Carter Center fellows as well as law students from Washington & Lee who are here under the tutelage of Professor Thomas “Speedy” Rice. The Carter Center fellows work in various government ministries and government projects in Liberia while the students are visiting for several weeks to learn more about the challenges facing the Liberian justice system and the reality on the ground in a post-conflict country. It’s encouraging and inspiring to see such a high-level of interest and dedication in this new generation of attorneys! With any luck, a few generations from now, we’ll all be out of business (i.e., human rights will be consistently respected worldwide). One can hope, no? ~Piper
Check back in regularly for updates from Piper as she's in the field. Also - be sure to mark your calendars for November 30th at 4pm, when Piper will host a conference call to talk about her trip to Liberia and the upcoming trial against Chuckie Taylor. Be sure to post any questions you have for Piper in advance!