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Smith Rock State Park, Oregon

Smith Rock State Park, Oregon

I am currently in Eugene on an ELAW Fellowship and nearing the end of my term at the University of Oregon’s American English Institute (AEI). I am a lawyer and have worked at Environment-People-Law (EPL) in Ukraine since 2007.

Thanks to ELAW, the Trust for Mutual Understanding, and AEI, I am able to study English while collaborating on my work with ELAW staff. At EPL we provide legal support to protect human rights and the environment. My work focuses on access to information, climate change, forests, waterways, biodiversity, and protected areas.

English proficiency is important to me. It allows me to collaborate on my work with ELAW and use legal and scientific resources that are not available in Ukrainian or Russian.

ua.2013.Nataliya.Horodetska and Heidi

Working with ELAW Staff Scientist Heidi Weiskel

One problem I am working on is the proposed construction of hundreds of small hydropower plants in the Carpathian Mountains. These projects would be dangerous for rivers, fish, and the forest, and violate the rights of local people. Here in Eugene, I have met weekly with ELAW staff and received their professional consultation on this problem.

My Intensive English Program at AEI is well organized and interesting. The teachers are highly qualified, including Peggy Dame, Lydia Shen, and Marko Mwipopo, who supervised my elective course.

American English Institute gathering

American English Institute gathering

Outside of class, AEI has weekly events to help students improve their English, including meeting with conversation partners, coffee hours, and volunteer work. My conversation partner is Brandon, a University of Oregon political science student who is thinking about law school and may one day volunteer at ELAW. While in Eugene, I’ve had the opportunity to do many things.

When I first arrived, I traveled with Professor John Bonine’s LLM students to Portland where we met with Columbia Riverkeeper, the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, and visited Smith Rock State Park. I later attended the graduation ceremony for these LLM students.

I have enjoyed attending Saturday Market and the Ukrainian Catholic Church. I toured Greenhill Humane Society, watched American football, and woke to raccoons playing in the trees outside my window.

In my last two weeks, in addition to my English studies and work with ELAW staff, I will visit local courts, learn more about recycling processes, and possibly travel to Seattle or Portland.

Thank you ELAW for hosting me, and to everyone who helped while I was here.

Nataliya Horodetska
ELAW Fellow

Ana Lucía Maya Aguierre at the Oregon Coast

Ana Lucía at the Oregon Coast

Last week, ELAW Fellow Ana Lucía Maya Aguirre returned home to Bogotá, Colombia after nearly six months of studying English at the American English Institute (AEI) and collaborating with ELAW in Eugene. During her Fellowship, Ana focused on strengthening the Asociación Ambiente y Sociedad (Association for Environment and Society), a newly formed organization of which Ana is a member.

Asociación Ambiente y Sociedad has four programs:

1. Climate Change, human rights and poverty
2. Citizenship, access to information, and participation
3. Biological and cultural diversity
4. Socio-environmental justice

Within these focus areas, the organization employs an array of strategies: providing legal support and trainings for communities working to protect their right to a healthy environment; researching policies and regulations; and working with ELAW and other international networks to create a broader, collective impact within Colombia and across borders.

During her Fellowship, Ana worked with ELAW staff to develop a strategic plan for Asociación Ambiente y Sociedad, exchange information about climate change and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) and potential for future projects in Colombia, learn more about funding opportunities, and formulate research questions for a report on mining cases in Latin America.

ELAW volunteers helped Ana study English, conduct research for the mining report,  design a brochure, and translate the website for Asociación Ambiente y Sociedad.

ELAW is eager to collaborate with Ana and her colleagues at Asociación Ambiente y Sociedad to help realize their vision of a culture that understands the interdependence of humans and the environment, promotes environmental defense and human and environmental rights, and improves environmental governance and effective participation of civil society in environmental matters.

A huge thank you goes to all of the volunteers who helped make Ana’s Fellowship a success and to AEI for its generous support of ELAW Fellows. Find more information about ELAW’s Fellowship Program here.

Melanie Giangreco
Latin America Program Assistant

As ELAW’s Information Technology manager, I help ELAW partners around the world use technology to further their work protecting communities and the environment.

Emilio d'Curie, Honduras

Emilio D’Cuire

Most recently, I helped Emilio D’Cuire from the Instituto de Derecho Ambiental de Honduras (IDAMHO) create a website using the open source content management system, Drupal.  Drupal is amazing software that will allow IDAMHO to create news, blogs and other types of content without help from experienced website developers. The website will enable IDAMHO to connect with local community members and international supporters to further its goals of protecting Honduras from mining abuses and preventing damage to the Mesoamerican Reef.

ELAW supporter and collaborator Josh Vincent of Eugene is designing a logo and color scheme for IDAMHO’s website and Emilio and I are learning to use the new Drupal version 7.  (ELAW has  developed websites for other NGOs using Drupal version 6, but version 7 introduces additional features and administration techniques.)

While Emilio was in Eugene, I worked with him to identify components he would like the website to have and trained him to manage the website’s content using Drupal’s tools.  Now that Emilio has returned home, he will train his colleagues to use the new system.

Drupal Content Management System

I am always looking for ways to help ELAW partners use open source software, which improves our network’s information technology systems and saves money compared to purchasing proprietary software licenses.  I have believed for years that the open, collaborative nature of open source software is a perfect match for the NGO world.  Based upon this belief, I have steered ELAW’s technology use toward open source projects such as Linux and the Drupal Content Management System.  Other examples of ELAW’s successful use of Drupal include our website, the Grand Slam Alliance’s website, and the Belize Institute of Environmental Law And Policy’s website.

Glenn Gillis
Information Technology Manager

Emilio d’Cuire, Honduras

Grassroots advocates are eager to travel to Eugene for individually-tailored ELAW Fellowships that help them  collaborate and build skills to better protect communities and the environment back home. In 2011, ELAW hosted 12 advocates from 11 countries in Africa, Latin America, and Europe.

ELAW seeks support for Emilio d’Cuire and other promising environmental advocates who seek ELAW Fellowships in 2012.  Support for the ELAW Fellowship Program will make it possible for Emilio to gain the skills and resources he needs to craft a greener future.

“I want to protect nature and improve the quality of life for the dispossessed,” says Emilio.  “I want to empower civil society.”

Emilio received a degree in biology from Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Honduras and took his passion to the Environmental Law Institute of Honduras (IDAMHO).   Short-sighted  tourism development schemes threaten the coast of Honduras, protected areas, and small fishing communities. Emilio and his co-workers are doing excellent work strengthening the rule of law and protecting the Mesoamerican Reef.

Meanwhile, Honduras is becoming increasingly violent.  The Peace Corps recently pulled out of Honduras and this is an excellent time for Emilio to travel to Oregon to gain skills and work with ELAW.  Honduras has the highest homicide rate in the world, and violent attacks against environmental activists are increasingly common.

Emilio has landed a tuition scholarship for the University of Oregon’s American English Institute’s Intensive English Program.  Stronger English skills, he says, will open up “a world of information.”  Many ELAW partners have gained English skills through the American English Institute and found it tremendously valuable

For more information about how you can support the ELAW Fellowship Program, contact Maggie Keenan at maggie@elaw.org.

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director

ELAW Fellow María and Ems Player Luis Felipe De La Cruz

Last Thursday, ELAW was the Featured Nonprofit at the Eugene Emeralds baseball game against the Tri-City Dust Devils.

The game was special to all of us at ELAW for a number of reasons: ELAW Executive Director Bern Johnson threw out the first pitch, our current ELAW Fellow María is a big baseball fan from the Dominican Republic, and lots of local ELAW fans and families came out to show their support.

The best part for me was sharing the game with  my 6 year-old son, Aidan. It was easy to get Aidan to go to an Ems game. He has been playing baseball since he was about 3. He loves going to Ems games, which we do regularly, and we’ve even been to see a Giants game in San Francisco.

Aidan and I at the game

Taking Aidan to the game was another way to share my passion for the environment and for ELAW with him. Part of the reason I work at ELAW is that I want to ensure Aidan inherits a planet free of oil spills, clear cut forests, and toxic nuclear waste.

When he is older, I hope Aidan will choose to support the environment as many other ELAW children have done: Samantha Atukunada, daughter of Uganda’s Kenneth Kakuru at Greenwatch; Pedro Leon Gutierrez, son of Raquel Gutierrez of Mexico’s Instituto de Derecho Ambiental (IDEA); and Harper Johnson, daughter of ELAW’s Executive Director Bern Johnson. It’s only with the help of the next generation that we can ensure that the more just, sustainable world we are working to create will remain intact.

Go Ems!  Go ELAW!

Glenn Gillis
Information Technology Manager

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