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Students to volunteer in Honduras to empower residents on legal issues

| Tuesday, March 3, 2020

During spring break this year, eight Notre Dame students will travel to Honduras to hold discussions and workshops to educate and empower local residents. The trip is being sponsored by the Notre Dame chapter of the Global Legal Empowerment Brigades, a division of the international non-profit Global Brigades.

On its website, the organization states that its mission is to “to empower volunteers and under-resourced communities to resolve global health and economic disparities and inspire all involved to collaboratively work towards an equal world.”

There are numerous specialized divisions of Global Brigades, each with individual chapters at different colleges and universities around the country. All the divisions, however, aim to send student volunteers on annual, brief mission trips to underserved areas around the world.

Notre Dame chapters for business, medical and public health brigades have operated for several years, but the legal chapter was founded in the fall of 2019. The Honduras trip will be the chapter’s first.

Sophomore Sara Ferraro, chapter founder and president, said she was driven to start the chapter after volunteering with the Global Medical Brigades in Panama last year.

“I was inspired by Global Brigades’ emphasis on sustainable development and their mentality of ‘handshakes, not handouts,’” Ferraro said in an email. “… I am passionate about human rights advocacy, and I wanted to give more students the opportunity to work with Global Brigades, so I started the legal empowerment chapter at Notre Dame.”

Ferraro said that, for this year’s brigade, the eight participating student volunteers — including herself — will travel to Suyapa, Honduras, to work with community leaders and local attorneys there.

“We are looking forward to participating in educational ‘charlas,’ or chats, on anti-bullying and the right to a non-violent life,” Ferraro said. “We will also have the opportunity to gather family case testimonials in Suyapa and we will help start the legal process by gathering information and transferring their cases to local courts.”

The legal brigades frequently work on cases that, otherwise, would remain unresolved, Ferraro said.

“Global Brigades is dedicated to amplifying the voices of all people,” she said. “The cases involve topics such as marriage, divorce, child recognition, custody and support.”

The chapter reached and exceeded their $15,008 donation goal for the trip last week. Chapter fundraising chair James Cook, a sophomore, said the group raised money for the trip with a bake sale, as well as receiving individual donations.

“We have been working to raise money through bake sales and asking our local ND clubs and families for donations,” he said in an email. “Through these combined efforts, we have thankfully reached our goal and look forward to the trip.”

Cook said he was excited to visit a part of the world to which he hasn’t previously traveled and to work towards the mission of the brigades.

“I believe that everyone has the right to a nonviolent life, and the right to know about what protections they have under the legal system of their country,” he said. “Philosophers and political theorists, from Aristotle to Locke, have defined the primary function of government as the protection of the common good.”

Cook hopes to make a difference in the communities he and his fellow volunteers will visit, he said.

“I wanted to be a part of the Global Legal Empowerment Brigade because their work helps to preserve this function of government and improve the quality of life within the community it is a part of,” Cook said.

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About Andrew Cameron

Andrew is a senior from Orange County, California. He is an associate news editor at the Observer, and is majoring in Biological Sciences and English. While he has greatly enjoyed his time at Notre Dame, during the winter months he often wonders why he ever left the perennial warmth of Southern California.

Contact Andrew