December 2017

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For the first time, the Law Society at UWI St. Augustine has an executive position for Charity & Outreach. According to the Chairperson, third-year law student, Marcus Moses, the Society has informally carried out charity work over the years, but the most recent executive, along with other law students, voted to make the post official last year.

This change to the constitution means that the executive will be bound to bridge more than the gap between faculty and the student body; they’ll be bound to bridging the gap between the law faculty, students and the wider community.

The students have already begun projects at two homes for children: St. Dominic’s Home in Belmont and St. Mary’s Home in Tacarigua. From September of this year, the Society organized volunteers to assist children at St. Mary’s on a weekly basis with homework, reading and writing and to generally spend quality time with children who are orphaned or have been victims of crime.

At St. Dominic’s, the students were an integral part of a project lead by the charity organization, Children’s Ark. For ten weeks last year, the Children’s Ark, Law Society and a host of local artists conducted an arts programme with the St. Dominic’s residents. The programme included visual, theatre and literary arts. At the end of the 10-week period, children were also treated to a closing exhibition.

For each project that the Society carried out they’ve had sterling mentors. In addition to the Professor Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, Dean of the Law Faculty, Children’s Ark founder, Simone de la Bastide and even attorney-at-law and wife of the Prime Minister, Sharon Rowley have worked closely with the Society to ensure their success. Antoine and Rowley are both UWI alumni.

Law Society President, third-year student Ayanna Norville said she was touched not only by volunteering, but also by receiving mentorship in service. “These women are all successful professionals and just the fact that they would take the time to collaborate with us and guide us through these initiatives was an honour. They became like mothers to us and were great role models and really should be applauded for showing us that life is more than law,” said Norville.

The experience of bonding with children from a marginalized group in society was transformative, according to Norville. “When we first went to the homes and got to learn more about the backgrounds of the children there, it really made me realize that not everyone is as fortunate as you. There are people whose only focus is finding their parents and that really pulls you away from your world. It made me more sensitive to society. It was honestly a life-changing experience,” she said.

Other members of the executive shared similar sentiments with Norville. Law Society Vice President Michael Modeste said the experience was eye-opening. “Working at the home did open my eyes and made me more empathetic to what the children are going through. Society paints this picture of these children as a waste of time, but they are quite knowledgeable and it’s only uncontrollable circumstances that have them in this position,” he said. “The children are just like you and that’s what stood out to me. There’s so much stigma surrounding them, but they are intelligent and passionate.”

Moses was happy to have made an impact on the children as well. “The responses from the children were really positive. They were so excited and I think they benefitted from having younger people around them who weren’t authoritative figures,” he said.

Norville said the St. Mary’s programme, which ended in November to accommodate students taking exams, was a pilot programme that will become the blueprint for future endeavors. She added that the Society was looking into making their outreach programmes more long term. “One of the the most challenging things about these initiatives was that they were short term. It was hard for the kids, and for us actually, to get attached and build that bond and then have the programme end so quickly. But what we’re doing is setting the trend for successive executives to continue. Continuity would really strengthen these projects,” said Norville.

The Society will be returning to St. Mary’s in January to host a “fun day” for children. They will also be repeating the arts programme at St. Dominic’s once again with the assistance of Children’s Ark. The Law Society will also be holding a fundraising event in March from which all proceeds will go to charitable causes.

The Law Society’s Purpose (Charity)

To help Law Students reach out to the wider community through charitable initiatives. As budding lawyers, we must not live in a vacuum. We must always remember that there are people living in situations where they need the help and support of others. This is also a part of becoming a holistic individual. The ability to be aware of others’ circumstances and be willing to empathise and "lend a hand".