Last month, it was a great honour and privilege to be able to attend the 5th Asia Pro Bono Conference (APBC), in Bali. Truth be told, I had absolutely no idea how the conference would be, and I felt intimidated at the prospect of being in the midst of so many selfless, altruistic individuals, who have dedicated their lives for the service of those who are less fortunate. I would happily admit, in comparison to the others, I felt I was on the dark side of the force. The only thing I was determined to do was to have a great time, despite the backdrop of the conference being held in this unknown, lifeless, concrete jungle of a place we know as Bali (ha ha, just kidding).
My initial response, on the first day, was of a pleasant surprise. I had no idea of the level of dedication and enthusiasm of the lawyers/NGO workers, within Asia, and their zeal to push forward pro bono work, for those in need. As I grew up in Bangladesh, I had first-hand experience and understanding of just how much help the destitute and the underprivileged needed from social workers and lawyers, within society. It was a refreshing experience to see that so many large, medium and small institutions, and individuals from distinctly different professional backgrounds, came together and united, for the sole purpose of helping those who are in desperate need.
By personally meeting these unique and inspiring individuals, my vigour and drive to do pro bono work has greatly increased. I have now realized the power of unity, and what good we can achieve in an ever cynical, harsh world. I will always look back at this experience, seeing and hearing, first-hand, of extremely inspiring individuals and their stories, from several jurisdictions in Asia, and the type of personal risks the lawyers and NGOs are taking, to establish the rule of law and order, within the country.
I would most definitely like to build on the experience of this year’s 5th APBC, and am keen to participate in future conferences. It is an excellent opportunity of meeting truly dedicated and hardworking individuals, who have based their whole lives around a belief that the collective goodness, in all of us, can make a positive difference and create a better world, for the present and the future. I feel that conferences, such as the 5th APBC, create a reinforcing cycle, especially in Asia, where it encourages each other to look out, be responsible, work as a team and combine the collective intellect and skills, for the greater good.
Sometimes a hectic working life can make you lose yourself, and push you towards living a life that is stressful, vapid, and empty. This is why I think it is important to stop, think, and engage in work, where the sheer purpose of it all is to do good, nothing more, nothing less. I think it is extremely important for the pro bono movement to keep going and keep inspiring people. I am grateful to the organizers, for bringing together such an amazing gathering of colourful individuals, from all across the world, and for including me, as a part of the Asia Pro Bono Movement!
Valar Dohaeris. (“All persons must serve”)
By Mohammed Hakim, legal consultant at the DLA Piper Thailand office