While a student at Northeastern University School of Law, I was fortunate to be able to pursue two human rights co-ops with the support of the Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy. I completed my first co-op during the summer of 2010, staying here in Boston to work with Physicians for Human Rights. My fourth and final co-op was a PHRGE create-your-own international co-op that sent me to the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. There I worked with NUSL alumnus Emily Yozell to learn about the precarious state of land ownership and the threat this poses to the cultural survival of local Afro-Caribbean communities.
Thanks to the support of PHRGE, I was able to spend three months living among and learning from these communities. I began collecting interviews and established a website to broadcast local stories and explore the legal aspect of this conflict between sustainable development, human rights and local dignity versus environmental conservation. I was both intrigued by the complexity of the issue and moved by the stories of those I met. When I returned to Boston last summer to graduate and study for the bar exam, I knew I wanted to keep working for these communities.
In the past year I have returned to Costa Rica twice and established The Rich Coast Project, a community storytelling and collective history project aimed at advancing the social, economic and cultural rights of coastal Afro-Caribbean populations and other communities along Costa Rica’s southern Caribbean coast. Through the combination of new media storytelling and legal research, we will tell the communities’ side of the story and explore alternative approaches to the competing aims of sustainable development and environmental conservation.
The project will work with local advocates to produce a collective memory of the area and its people, tracing the historical process of development and examining the impact of national conservation policy over the past several decades. This process will be supported by the simultaneous development of an online resource of community archives, legal research, and educational materials aimed at promoting widespread understanding of the complicated legal forces at play.
The goal of the project is to use creative advocacy to build the case for keeping the local people on their land, showing that not only is it the right thing to do, it will also produce better results for the people and the environment.
If you are interested in knowing more about The Rich Coast Project and ways you can support or be involved in our work, Visit www.therichcoastproject.com or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube.