Last week, ELAW welcomed Maria Rosario Mayi as our 2011 Laurie Prosser and Xiaoli Jiang Fellow. Maria is a promising grassroots environmental advocate in the Dominican Republic. She has worked at the leading grassroots environmental organization, Instituto de Abogados para la Protección del Medio Ambiente (INSAPROMA), for the past four years while completing her legal studies.
Maria now comes to Eugene for a 10-week ELAW Fellowship that includes working with ELAW attorneys and scientists on priority projects and attending English classes at the American English Institute at the University of Oregon.
Maria’s priorities include protecting the Dominican Republic from mining operations and ensuring that beaches are protected from short-sighted development projects. When Maria is not working with ELAW staff or honing her English skills at AEI, she will be going into the community to learn about environmentalism and environmental law in the United States.
According to Maria, one of the major barriers to enforcing environmental law in the DR is that many citizens don’t know their rights. In addition, communities often don’t see the problems they face as environmental issues. To effectively build and protect environmental law in the Dominican Republic, INSAPROMA does a lot of community education. The community education and community building go above and beyond specific environmental cases, yet is essential to building a strong foundation for environmental law. There is a lot of work to be done, even before going to court.
This is Maria’s first visit to the United States and she is staying at the ELAW House for the duration of her Fellowship. Maria just started English classes at AEI this week. Last week, Maria toured NextStep Recycling, BRING Recycling, and Short Mountain Landfill. She also visited Saturday Market, a beloved Eugene tradition.
Many thanks to Laurie Prosser and Xialoi Jiang, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the American English Institute for supporting Maria’s Fellowship.
Each year the Laurie Prosser/Xiaoli Jiang Fellowship brings a lawyer, activist, or student to Eugene to gain critical skills and resources. These Fellows return home equipped to make a lasting, positive difference for the environment. When thinking about ways to help ELAW achieve lasting progress, Laurie Prosser and Xiaoli Jiang embraced the ELAW Fellowship Program. Laurie says: “We help promising grassroots leaders make real strides at home while sharing lessons learned with the international ELAW network.”