We require a program fee for interns participating in the program to cover many things, including accommodation, materials, supplies, workshop costs, the volunteer coordination and services, and academic supervision on our part.
In addition, we use portions of the program fees to enable us to provide scholarships to participants who come from more needy backgrounds. Other parts of the costs go to help us to support projects and programs that we often find traditional donors not very willing to support (like the work we do in the Juvenile Detention Centers). As another example, in Lao we provided financial support to build an office building for their Community Legal Education Program at the Faculty of Law and Political Science and the money we used for this was almost entirely raised through both internship and volunteer program fees.
Our internship program is focused on educating and assisting in the development of better trained students who have within them a moral or ethical obligation to work toward greater access to justice and to support social justice issues. We all know how important this is in making our global society a better place and to ensure that we “build bridges” with nations and people throughout the world.
We have a real belief and understanding that we have an institutionalized internship program; we feel we have real proof that there is transformative experience for most of the participants who enter into it and complete it. An incredible amount of work and planning goes into making sure this is a successful program each year. Due to this, we strongly believe that our requirement to have it being a “paid program” is something very justifiable and something that we have support from professors and universities from all over the world.
We do note that sometimes the reason to require costs may not be apparent to some people. We must admit that prior to being involved in this type of work many of us too thought it odd, and almost preposterous that “volunteers” would be requested to pay for their volunteering time. We now understand this to be very different; and for those who may have this view, and of course any others, we more than welcome them to come and visit, view and even participate in our program. In doing so we really believe that they will more than understand both our need to do this but more than our need, why it is the right and necessary thing on our part to do. In the past years we have had professors and other members of the legal and education fraternity visit us from many different countries and of those that have, we have overwhelming support from them and our methods, including the requirement of charging for program costs. It is many of these professors who have personally worked to fundraise and to lobby their own institutions to provide partial and/or full fellowships, as well as academic credit, for students attending our program.
With all this said, there is an option for people who are applying for the program to apply for partial cost waiver fees depending on their financial position and their proven dedication to being involved in social justice/community service activities.