Throughout our time as interns with Bridges Across Borders Southeast Asia Community Legal Education Initiative (BABSEACLE), much of the work was focused on the expansion of Clinical Legal Education (CLE) in Myanmar. However, this was not nearly all we did and true to BABSEACLE being a very holistic organization, we were able to be a part of some of the various community teaching programs it supports in Thailand, such as weekly legal lessons at Wildflower Home. The home “provides safe shelter, education, health and other services to young southeast Asian single mothers”, many of whom are from Myanmar, and BABSEACLE provides the mothers with lessons on basic legal rights, not only as mothers, but also for their future.
During our first few weeks of internship, we took responsibility for designing and implementing these lessons. Eventually, this project was handed off to Elizabeth “Bebs” Chorak (a legal education specialist and visiting International Clinician In-Residence, along with a group of Myanmar law teachers placed for two months at the BABSEACLE International Legal Studies Training Center in Chiang Mai, Thailand. With both Bebs and these committed teachers we continued to work closely, in order to develop interactive and relevant lesson plans. Each week, we would gather to discuss their other tasks, together with these lessons.
This activity served to continue our main mission of community legal education, as well as a secondary goal, which is the practical application of such lessons. Personally, we could see the effect of Bebs’ work with the teachers, on a weekly basis, as they worked on continued enhancement, by thorough debriefing sessions that assessed what went well and what could be improved. These sessions were a natural supplement to Bebs’ teachings, as they demonstrated how a more interactive way of teaching improved these lessons. As Bebs would frequently say, “no lecturing!”
As we conclude our time at BABSEACLE, we look back on the work at Wildflower, and see how important it was, for the community and for us, as interns. This work provides valuable knowledge to those young mothers, and an introduction to the great work that BABSEACLE does, for the interns. One important part of such work, is to set in place the means to continue programs that BABSEACLE has worked to initiate, as it expands operations because this avoids wasted efforts, and helps to strengthen legal education regional and globally.
By Mark Smith, Emma Koster and Jordan Kronen, externs for BABSEACLE