By Monica Rodriguez | Reporter
The Baylor Law School recently hosted Zambian legal practitioner Sara Larios to discuss her work with nonprofits in Africa and the possibility of starting a Baylor in Zambia program for students next summer.
Larios assists young people that are having problems in the juvenile justice system in Zambia through an organization called Undikumbukire Project Zambia, otherwise known as UP Zambia.
According to their website, UP Zambia’s goal is to help imprisoned juveniles obtain legal representation and social support and advocate for a more restorative justice system.
Larios said that she never imagined becoming a lawyer; all she knew was that she wanted to pursue a career in state legislature and make a difference. However, when a chance to travel to Zambia in January 2009 presented itself, Larios was enamored with the idea of a new adventure. This resulted in her spending the next few years working with Zambian law firms, working with a group of only 10 other people to tackle over 300 juvenile cases.
“The real challenge was trying to convince the people there that the legal system wasn’t ‘just fine,’” Larios said. “Zambia has one of the worst prison systems in the world. Many of the juveniles we helped had been in prison for years without legal representation because of how broken the system is.”
Without any real sources of formal funding, the organization has helped 90 juveniles get legal representation and court cases.
“The reward isn’t monetary,” Larios says. “But just simply knowing that UP has made a difference in the lives of Zambian children and the court systems is rewarding enough.”
The idea of Baylor developing a study abroad program in Zambia is one the Law School would like to see expand on, according to law school professor Brian Serr.
Serr, along with a handful of Baylor students ,were introduced to Larios from Pepperdine University’s Uganda trip in 2015. Serr said he was impressed with Pepperdine’s program in Uganda and was eager to make a trip to Zambia to witness Larios’ involvement within the UP organization.
“The two words that come to mind are patience and persistence,” Serr says when talking about Larios. “Her organization has opened up multiple doors in Zambian courts and prisons while overcoming various barriers.”
Although UP Zambia doesn’t have an official intern program available, Larios is eager to invite Baylor students to Africa in order to offer a different societal perspective that the country is currently lacking.
Right now, Baylor Law School is looking to get four-ten students to travel to Zambia on internships as early as next summer. There would be two one-month sessions, one earlier in the summer and the second in late June or July.
Baylor law alumnus Anthony Bruster traveled Zambia in May with Serr and Larios to see what the possibility of a Baylor in Zambia program might look like.
“I want to encourage everyone to think about taking on this adventure next summer,” Bruster said. “I guarantee that if you spend a month in Zambia, you’ll not only have a great career experience, but an incredible life one as well.”