Law Clinic students launch £10k fundraising campaign for international exchange visit
4 December 2017
A £10k fundraising campaign has been launched by Kent Law Clinic students to help meet costs for an international exchange visit by a law clinic in Sierra Leone.
The visit is the first in a new exchange programme with the Law Clinic at the University of Makeni (UniMak). Six students and two staff from UniMak will stay at Kent's Canterbury campus for 10 days in March 2018 and it is hoped that a smaller number of students from Kent may visit Sierra Leone later in the year.
The visit to Kent will include trips to courts in Canterbury and London, a trip to the Houses of Parliament and meetings with local lawyers. There will also be a moot in the Wigoder Law Building's purpose-built Moot Room on the University's Canterbury campus.
The Makeni-Kent Project Exchange's fundraising campaign will help meet the costs of air, train and bus travel, accommodation and an amount in respect of subsistence. The cost per student is around £1,500. Fundraising activities planned for 2018 include a pub quiz, a fun run and a gaming night at Mungo’s Bar and Bistro on campus. Contributions from sponsors/donors are warmly welcomed on the GoFundMe page at: www.gofundme.com/makenikent-project-exchange
A partnership with UniMak began with the law clinic in Makeni in 2014. Sierra Leone has a Common Law jurisdiction, based on that of the UK, with the two countries sharing similar legal procedure and also some case-law and statute. The Makeni-Kent Project aims to enrich the legal education of law students in both countries. The two clinics share a determination not only to work and learn together but to deepen their knowledge and understanding of each other’s cultures and legal systems.
Initially, Kent students worked under the supervision of Law Clinic solicitors to help with legal research for criminal cases being defended by students and volunteer lawyers in Sierra Leone. During the 2014 Ebola outbreak, when UniMak's clinic was forced to close, students at Kent turned their efforts to fundraising and sent £1,000 in support of beleaguered colleagues in Makeni.
Assistance with legal research resumed once Sierra Leone became Ebola-free in November 2015. The following year, students at Kent sent nearly 400 second-hand law text books to students at Makeni via the UK Sierra Leone Pro Bono Network. More regular channels of communication via Facebook and WhatsApp strengthened relationships between the two clinics and helped foster a shared desire to launch an exchange programme.
Professor John Fitzpatrick, Director of Kent Law Clinic, said: 'It was thought that giving students the opportunity to visit each other’s clinics and to observe and participate in the legal work of another country would greatly enhance the ongoing dialogue between the two law clinics concerning the work that they undertake. It would encourage the sharing of information, and also the support given to each other in terms of ideas and research, and generally foster a cross-jurisdictional legal education.'
Over 30 students are actively involved in the Project's weekly meetings at Kent. Student Coordinator, Rhianna Melvin, said: 'The input of work by students has created a solid platform for the future of the Project and developed a close relationship between the students in terms of legal research and assistance.'
The Law Clinic at UniMak is staffed by law students, academics and practising lawyers. It provides a pro-bono legal service that aims to help the most marginalised individuals in the local community to gain access to justice through the law, and to prepare students for the practice of law in Sierra Leone.
Kent Law Clinic is a partnership between students, academics and lawyers in practice locally. It has two objectives: to provide legal advice and representation for individuals and groups who are otherwise unable to afford access to the remedies that the law offers, and to enhance the legal education of students at Kent Law School through direct experience of legal practice.