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ELAW Fellow Rockson Akugre

Last weekend, ELAW joined fellow Eugene non-profit NextStep — a consumer electronics reuse and recycling organization — at the 7th Annual Good Earth Home, Garden, and Living Show.

NextStep had volunteers and staff on-hand to answer questions about the vast range of consumer electronics they accept for reuse or responsible recycling as well as the amazing array of refurbished computers, televisions, CD and DVD players, and other items they sell at their Eugene and Springfield ReUse stores.

ELAW works with NextStep’s Executive Director, Lorraine Kerwood, to teach vising ELAW Fellows about the recycling and reuse of “e-waste.” After visiting Next Step in March 2011, ELAW Fellow Rockson Akugre said: “In Ghana, we would throw broken computers away…this is very new to me and good to be exposed to.”

NextStep is part of a growing international awareness of the problem of e-waste.  Many coalitions have formed to combat the e-waste problem, including the Electronics Takeback Coalition (ETC) and Basel Action Network (BAN).  In 2010, proposed Federal legislation focused on prohibiting the export of “restricted electronic waste” from the U.S.  to developing nations.  ELAW’s staff and international partners are thrilled to collaborate with NextStep to further our impact on the global problem of e-waste!

Glenn Gillis
Information Technology Manager

I arrived in Oregon on June 19th. To get here I took four airplanes. It was my first time on an airplane, and I was both excited and nervous. My first impression of Eugene was pretty good. Bern Johnson, Executive Director of ELAW, picked me up from the airport and was very friendly.  The next day, the ELAW staff welcomed me in the office and I met ELAW Fellow Imrich Vozár from Slovakia. I began to feel more comfortable. Now I feel at home.

Maria with Aleah (center) and Imrich (right)

My first week in Eugene was difficult. Eugene is very different from the Dominican Republic and the language is not the same. Luckily, ELAW introduced me to the Summer Intern, Aleah Jaeger, who helped me acclimate to Eugene and find my way to the University, the supermarket, and the ELAW house.

I am very happy to be studying English at the University of Oregon. The AEI program is really good and the teachers are excellent. In addition to building my English skills, I am learning about different countries and cultures. My classmates come from around the world and I have met students from China, Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Taiwan.

Maria and Imrich at BRING Recycling in Eugene, OR

From the beginning, I could tell that Oregon is a green state.  I love the forest and the environment here, the city is clean and the people are conscious of the environment. Early in my stay, I visited NextStep Recycling and BRING Recycling and was amazed at the job that these organizations are doing.  I wish that we used the 3 R’s in the Dominican Republic -reduce, reuse and recycle- but know that this may be difficult. To use the 3R’s we would need the support of politicians in the Dominican Republic.  Then we would need to learn how protect the environment and how to educate citizens about ways they can become involved.

With the exception of a water law and a forest law, which we don’t have, we have many laws to protect the environment in the Dominican Republic. But economic interests often get in the way and many citizens are either unwilling to protect their rights or unaware of them, which presents a big barrier to protecting the environment. I know that the organization where I work, INSAPROMA (Instituto de Abogados para la Proteccion del Medio Ambiente), sometimes has a hard time gaining public support for environmental projects, but we continue to try. We are doing the best we can for the Dominican Republic and I love my job.

Maria at work with INSAPROMA

The knowledge that I’m gaining at ELAW is invaluable. When I return to the Dominican Republic, I will use this knowledge to help INSAPROMA do a better job protecting the environment. Maybe we can’t change the minds of our politicians, but we will continue defending our environment in court. We will also continue teaching community members about the environmental laws we have, because each time one Dominican changes his behavior and becomes environmental friendly we take one step in the right direction.

I want to thank everyone at ELAW for helping me learn and for making me feel at home. Also many thanks to Laurie Prosser and Xialoi Jiang, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the American English Institute for supporting my fellowship.

Maria Rosario Mayi
ELAW Fellow

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, and Imrich at NextStep with Lorraine Kerwood

Maria (left) and Imrich (right) at NextStep Recycling with Lorriane Kerwood of NextStep Recycling

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.

Imrich and Maria at Short Mountain

Imrich and Maria (right) visit Short Mountain Landfill

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.

Welcome Maria!

Michele Kuhnle
Donor Liaison

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.”

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