2010 summer law interns, Ashely White and Joanna Reilly-Brown

At ELAW we have a comprehensive volunteer and intern program. As many non-profits know, supervising volunteers takes time and energy. Before establishing a volunteer program, groups must ask themselves, “ Do the benefits outweigh the time commitment?”

At ELAW, the answer has been yes! One reason is because we are fortunate to work with highly motivated, hard working, and sharp volunteers. This week is National Volunteer Week, and we’d like to take this opportunity to recognize the amazing contribution of our valuable volunteers.

During the school year, law students from the University of Oregon School of Law complete internships with ELAW’s legal team, researching the answers to legal questions posed by our partners around the world. During the summer, ELAW accepts one or two applicants for a competitive legal internship position, where the student(s) engages with the network full-time. ELAW has also relied on scientific support from interns and expertise from scientists around the world who offer assistance on various cases.

In addition to the pro bono and legal support, ELAW relies on office assistants for much of our day-to-day help. ELAW volunteers complete a variety of jobs including (but not limited to) database entry, assistance with mailings, research, Spanish, Chinese, and other language translation, event set-up and facilitation, tabling, and loads of other jobs.

2010 science intern, Laura Syron (third from left)

One goal of ELAW is to help build the public interest bar. Many of ELAW’s office volunteers are students, who have expressed an interest in law, environmental protection, activism, or human rights. Facilitating a volunteer program is one way that ELAW can help expose young environmental advocates to the work that trained lawyers and scientists are doing, while motivating the students to follow their desires to help people and help protect the environment.

The feeling is mutual. As the Volunteer Coordinator, the most rewarding aspect of my job is to be in the presence of energetic and optimistic young people. ELAW volunteers work many hours, and they do it with a smile and a great attitude. They come from diverse backgrounds and have varied interests and skills. They motivate me to work harder and often remind me of why I started this work.

Addie is an example of a star volunteer. Addie is a Junior at South Eugene High School’s French immersion program. Addie comes into ELAW every week for a couple of hours and works hard. She has helped with mailings, updated our database, done research for newsletter articles, and used her French skills to help review and edit the French translation of ELAW’s Guidebook to Evaluating Mining Project EIAs. Addie is looking at colleges on the east coast, where we know she’ll do well. We hope she sticks around ELAW until then.

Justin is ELAW’s newest volunteer. Justin is a Spanish and Latin American studies major at the University of Oregon. He gets to practice his translation skills while contributing to partners in the ELAW network. Justin translates messages and documents between English and Spanish, so that information is more widely available to our partners. While practicing his Spanish, he is also learning more about global environmental and human rights issues. He has studied abroad in Guatemala and Chile and brings his experiences working with indigenous communities to ELAW. Welcome Justin!

Chu (Cassie) Chen, ELAW volunteer Program Associate 2009-2010, with Zhang Yonghua, 2010 ELAW Fellow from China

Cassie must hold the record for most hours volunteered at ELAW! After Cassie graduated from the University of Oregon with a Masters in Environmental Studies, she completed a one-year, full-time, unpaid internship with ELAW. Her contributions were priceless. Even now, three months after her internship officially ended, Cassie is still helping ELAW review Chinese translations. While an intern, we were fortunate to see Cassie get married, and now we’ve learned that she’s expecting a baby – a new addition to the ELAW family!

ELAW has many other volunteers who have given hours of valuable time. Happy National Volunteer Week to you all, and thank you for your hard work and dedication.

Lauren Ice
ELAW Office Manager and Volunteer Coordinator