Student Perspective

Difference Makers – Jessica Washington

Mpaso and I with pile of clothes: Mpaso and I sorting hoodies in preparation for the gift of warmth collection drive. UP Zambia will provide over 500 juveniles with a blanket and hoodie during the cold season.

On a quiet day at the office, I began rifling through the mound of donations, UP Zambia paperwork, activity supplies, and such that had accumulated in the corner of the office. While the purpose was organization and preparation of donations for the Gift of Warmth Collection Drive, I quickly became wrapped up in an unexpected box of artwork created by the incarcerated juveniles.

Baylor students in bus: Baylor Law interns preparing string and material for activities while on the way to Katonbora Reformatory School. The string was used to make bracelets with the juveniles, while the material was used for headbands during the sports games to identify team members.

In this box were paper plates painted with UP Zambia’s slogan “One Day Freedom.” There were paintings thanking UP Zambia for their work, and paintings with prayers to God for freedom and mercy. Letters were mounted on wood planks that chronicled a juvenile’s day in prison and prayers for release, that at one point hung in the UP Zambia office as a reminder of the juveniles they are serving. Gratitude for the work UP Zambia does for these juveniles overwhelmed me, and I felt crushing compassion for those boys who painted these beautiful prayers. They reminded me so much of those I spent my days with in the prisons.

Team picture: Lusaka Central Prison Team outside of Lusaka Central Prison after UP Zambia’s 5th birthday celebration.

And then my heart dropped. There in my hands was a painting dated about a year and half ago and signed with a name I recognized all too well from my time at Lusaka Central Prison. The weight of his time in prison sat on my shoulders in that moment as I considered all he has suffered at the hands of the justice system following his crime. Yet every day, when he greets me at the desk and I ask him how he is, he responds “I am blessed.” Three years of incarceration that will mean little when it comes to his sentencing. Three years of being 1 of 50 juveniles in a prison with a population of 2,000. Three years of insufferable living conditions and limited court appearances. Three years and no judgment yet. Yet he continues to pray and thank God for what little he does have, because through it all he is blessed.

Pile of blankets: Mainza and I at Katonbora Reformatory School preparing to hand out blankets to the juveniles.

I wish you too could read the prayers of these young men. I wish you could see past those prison doors, past the barbed wire that lines the concrete walls isolating the juveniles from the outside world. I wish you could meet them, shake their hand, see the humanity within them. I wish you too had the privilege of knowing these juveniles, their transgressions along with their hopes and dreams. Because I am blessed simply by having these juveniles in my life.

I truly believe rehabilitation requires a showing of love and kindness for these young men, and that box of artwork I found is a unique display of the love UP Zambia has for these juveniles. Leaving the juveniles at Lusaka Central Prison was extremely difficult and heart-breaking, but the artwork created over the past two to three years is a reminder that UP Zambia remains as a constant. Beyond legal services, UP Zambia is a source of love and kindness for these juveniles to make sure that they feel that when the world is against them, they have a team on their side. Thank you UP Zambia staff for the limitless support you provide the juveniles in all aspects of their lives. You are difference-makers throughout Zambia, and the juveniles and myself are truly blessed by each and every one of you. One day freedom!

Student Perspective, Uncategorized

The Four P’s – Sarah Hayes

Before beginning work in the Zambian justice system, we, the six Baylor Law and four Northrise University interns, sat down for an orientation session. It was helpful to learn about the how and why behind UP Zambia before diving right into the next few weeks of working with juveniles in custody. Sara Larios, one of the UP Zambia co-founders, explained that the program operates with four core values in mind: proximity, problem-solving, professionalism, and passion. These four words are more than just abstract ideals – they are values that the entire team actively practices every single day. I can say this with confidence because I’ve been a witness to “The Four Ps” in action each day that I’ve been with the UP Zambia team.

Proximity

UP Zambia strives to be close to clients in every relevant field – in prison, in the community, and in court. Each Saturday, members of the UP Zambia team meet at Kamwala Remand Prison, where several of the juvenile clients are held in custody as they await their sentences. On one Saturday in particular, we lugged in backpacks filled with flour, sugar, oil, and other baking supplies and commenced a morning of making fritters. As it turns out, cooking enough fritters to feed 70 kids takes a while, so we were able to spend several hours just hanging out with the juveniles in custody, who are really just normal teenage boys. They performed raps for us and taught (or tried to teach) us bits of Bemba and Nyanja, cracking up when we butchered simple words and phrases. I liked being able to hang out with the kids as friends rather than being restricted to seeing them only in a stuffy, serious courtroom, and I could tell that the Saturday visits positively impact the relationships between the UP Zambia team and their clients.

Problem-Solving

To say juvenile justice in Zambia is hard work would be an understatement. There are frequent bumps in the road – missing witnesses, lost files, overwhelming caseloads – that make it difficult to make progress at times. Thankfully, everyone on the team is an expert problem-solver and adept at finding alternate paths to resolve issues. Giving up on a case is never an option they consider. On one morning in particular, I was in court observing Mpaso, one of the staff attorneys. A case came up for trial that had been continuously been reset; the juvenile had been sitting in custody since his arrest in January. The matter was about to be reset again because the complainant, whose presence was required, had not shown up to court. As the magistrate announced that the case would be adjourned yet again, Mpaso stood and said that she would go and find the complainant herself in order to see that the juvenile would not have to return to custody again without any progress being made on his case (through no fault of his own). Sure enough, after a few hours of searching as other cases were heard, Mpaso was successful! She found the complainant and brought him into court so that the case could proceed. If it weren’t for Mpaso and her willingness to see the case through, who knows how much longer the juvenile would have had to sit in prison, waiting for his case to be heard.

Professionalism

During our first week in Lusaka, Baylor Law’s very own Dean Toben spoke to the entire UP Zambia team about professionalism. Dean Toben posed the question, “What does it mean to be a professional?” The general consensus was that it means to be well-trained and an expert in the field. Every Thursday at the UP Zambia office, the staff participates in a legal training to hone their skills. Sarah Rempel, one of the staff attorneys, speaks on topics like interviewing, fact investigation, and client-centered lawyering. Then, everyone on the team gets a chance to practice the skills learned about that day. I’ve enjoyed these in-depth sessions on important legal skills and have been able to put them into practice, especially while interviewing clients in prison. One day in particular, we discussed the four stages of a client interview: the introduction, the open-ended “tell me everything” stage, the probing questions, and the recap. As I was recapping the story of the boy I was interviewing, he was able to point out important details that I had missed the first time around. This interaction made me understand why it’s necessary to learn and practice legal skills frequently. The importance UP Zambia places on professionalism and staying sharp when it comes to necessary legal skills ultimately benefits their clients in the long run.

Passion

I see passion for juvenile justice every single minute of every day in every person on the UP Zambia team. The way they tirelessly fight for their clients – spending hours digging through file rooms in the court to find papers that have been forgotten, traveling to the outskirts of Lusaka to track down parents of juveniles in custody – demonstrates that the work they are doing is important and justice for these kids is something worth fighting for. I think that it would be fairly easy to get caught up in the day to day tasks like interviewing clients and submitting forms and forget about the bigger picture, but everyone on the UP Zambia team constantly reminds each other of why they do what they do. Their passion is contagious and makes me excited to wake up each day and head to the prison, the court, or the office. I am so thankful for this passionate group of people that pour their energy and drive into obtaining “one day freedom” for their teenaged clients.