Saturday, September 28, 2013

Dear Peace Corps, I finally made it, almost...

It is one day shy of a week since I arrived in Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa, to start a fellowship with the Legal Resources Centre of South Africa. Over the next six months, I'll be working with the LRC staff to develop, organize, and begin implementing plans to modernize their library and research operations to better support the work of the LRC lawyers.

The LRC is South Africa's largest and oldest national public interest law organization. Since 1979 the LRC has been working on behalf of the most vulnerable populations in the areas of land and housing rights, children's rights and education, environmental justice, HIV/AIDS, health and other social services, refugee matters, and women's equality. The LRC is the leading public interest law firm pursuing constitutional litigation in the South African courts. Nelson Mandela appointed LRC's founder, Arthur Chaskalson, to serve as the first President of South Africa's Constitutional Court in 1994.

Janet Love is the National Director of the LRC. She has been a part of the anti-apartheid movement since 1974. She spent 10 years in exile and worked inside South Africa as a member of the African National Congress underground. She is a Commissioner of the South African Human Rights Commission.

The LRC library is named in honor of Bram Fischer, a key figure in the anti-apartheid fight. A South African lawyer of Afrikaner descent, he was, among other things, the lead defense attorney for Nelson Mandela and other anti-apartheid activists arrested at Liliesleaf Farm in 1964. Many believe it is due to his work that the activists received life sentences rather than the death penalty.  

Memorial Plaque for the LRC library
I've spent the last week getting to know the library, its staff and operations, and the collections, current and archival. I am all ready to roll up my sleeves on Monday morning and get to work. The next six months should prove interesting.

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