New Perimeter

Our Global Pro Bono Initiative
Melissa Johnston

Melissa Johnston

Senior Associate, Auckland

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1. What inspired you during the project?

I was inspired by the students. The students were eager to learn and actively engaged with the work. On the first day we asked each of them to introduce themselves and tell us why they were studying law. We heard various answers, including as an entry into politics, to make a change in the world and to impact women’s rights. One student wanted to be the president of Zambia. The students were open and honest. They were keen to hear from us about our careers, challenges we had faced, advice we could give about being successful and how they could work in New Zealand and the United States.

We taught in a facility that was separate from the law school and was reasonably modern. However, on the fourth day of teaching we took a walk around the university, and I could see that the students had limited space for studying. Many students have to study outside as the library has little space, and they often share dorm rooms, so they cannot study in their room. It was inspiring to see how much the students cared about their studies and their future despite the challenging environment they were learning in.

I recall one of the New Perimeter blogs I read before I left that said: 1 teaches, 2 learn. I concur with this. I learned about the Zambian culture, the students’ lives and their outlook of life. It was a privilege to teach these students, and, in turn, I hope they learned a lot from us.

2. What was the most fulfilling aspect of the work?

Seeing the change in the students over the week was the most fulfilling aspect of the work. On the first day, we thought one of the students had volunteered to answer a question; she politely said that she hadn’t. I pressed her and said she could volunteer, and she politely declined. By day three she was volunteering answers regularly. We also saw after some discussion that students could recognize that they were using legal jargon where it wasn’t needed, and they were able to edit their own work. It was great to see that the students felt comfortable and confident enough to volunteer their answers.

3. What one word describes your New Perimeter trip?

Two words - life changing.

It was a privilege to teach these students, and, in turn, I hope they learned a lot from us.”

Sound Legal Institutions