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Global Brigades: Human Rights
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Lasanthi Fernando

Lasanthi Fernando

Paterno Fellow
Hometown: Gaithersburg, PA
Major: Economics
Minor: Business in the Liberal Arts

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I found out about Global Brigades at the Penn State Fall Involvement Fair.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

We provided legal assistance to rural communities in Panama (the province of El Tirao specifically). Legal assistance came in the form of working alongside Panamanian lawyers and by presenting legal speeches to the community; the speeches indicated the steps and procedures of obtaining divorces and alimonies. Additionally, we hosted talks with 2 schools (one middle school and one elementary school) where we spoke to the children about career choices, benefits of education and in general encouraging them to continue their studies because it opens the door for a better future. By the end of the week, we had begun 3 cases (one divorce case, one paternity case, and one alimony case).

"My spoken Spanish has improved immensely, I now have no difficulty speaking with a Spanish accent in class."

How did this experience impact you academically?

Academically, though I only spent a week in Panama, my spoken Spanish has improved immensely! Prior to this trip, my spoken Spanish was a combination of Spanish words and English pronunciation. Through the help of our translators, I learned how to roll my R's and now have no difficulty speaking with a Spanish accent in my classes. Additionally, though this is not a direct academic influence, I have made connections with my fellow brigaders. I met someone who had taken an Economics course (which I'm currently taking) and he has been incredibly helpful with this class post-trip.

What are your career goals or plans? How did this experience impact them?

Through this experience, I learned the general procedures to handling cases and interacting with clients. One thing that I had overlooked was the relationship between a lawyer and his client. Prior to this trip, I would have met with the client and begun talking about his/her case. After going to Panama, I saw that the first step taken by our lawyer was to build an amicable relationship with his client. He knew that some of them were embarrassed by their cases, thus only began to talk about the specifics of the case after he got to know them on friendlier terms (their lives, their children, their likes/dislikes).

Would you recommend this experience to other liberal arts students?

Yes.

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