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Pepperdine | Caruso School of Law

Growing in Africa and South America

Michael Moss is one of about ten Pepperdine law students who have volunteered their summers to fight for human rights and social justice all across the continent of Africa during the past two years. Michael spent his summer working for International Justice Mission in Kenya, investigating cases in Nairobi involving child rape and compiling reports documenting these findings to present to local law enforcement officials. "Justice seems to degrade the farther you get from Nairobi or one of the other big cities", recounts Michael, "because there is just no accountability in rural Kenya." Children's homes are overcrowded, understaffed, and underfunded. In one province, with a population of 4.5 million, there are nine children's officers -- one children's officer for every 500,000 people. "There are many compelling cases about which the officers can do nothing, merely because they do not have the means to get to the child", states Michael. Despite this landscape, Michael was struck by the number of people trying to effectuate change. "All in all, I am very thankful for the chance I was given to spend the summer in Kenya", says Michael.

Pepperdine students are also having an impact in South America and Asia. Three Pepperdine students spent time in Honduras, working with the Association for a More Just Society (AJS), whose mission is to achieve social justice for the poorest and most vulnerable members of Honduran society. Jonathan Derby, Peter Leavitt and Matt Vandermyde assisted AJS's efforts to quiet title to disputed land in the Flor del Campo and Montana Verde regions. This involved "combing through books of titles at the local Property Registry, many still archaically written on lined paper in cursive writing" and tracing back to titles granted by the Spanish crown over 200 years ago. Many of the poor residents living on the disputed land are harassed by local law enforcement who invade communities at night, threatening physical violence and arresting community leaders who are subsequently tortured and held without trial. AJS has publicized these cases in order to raise public awareness and apply pressure for the release of prisoners, while working simultaneously to resolve the land rights dispute.