Each year, the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School Black Law Student Association (BLSA) leads a trip to give back to the Black diaspora and learn about different issues Black communities are facing around the world. This year, on the group’s first in-person service trip since the COVID-19 pandemic, nine Penn Carey Law students traveled to Ghana.
BLSA student leadership worked closely with the group’s members to determine what types of service activities would be of most interest to them. Ultimately, BLSA worked with partner law firm B&P, which is located in Ghana, to arrange projects that would both serve as learning opportunities for Penn Carey Law students and have meaningful impact on the local community.
“Students in BLSA really take the helm,” says Frank Deese, who serves as a BLSA Pan-Africa Co-Chair. “People are given a responsibility within BLSA itself and within our specific roles to take on a lot of responsibility and flesh out what we wanted that pro bono part of the trip to look like.”
BLSA members have been traveling to and working in Ghana since the early 2000s. Notably, one of B&P’s goals is to change the legal community culture in Ghana, where economic disparity contributes to deep inequities throughout the country. Especially in rural locations, many people cannot access legal representation and may not know their legal rights, making intentional outreach efforts essential.
This year, over their Spring Break, BLSA students traveled to Ghana to assist B&P in establishing and growing the firm’s pro bono practice.
“A trip like this is a luxury and an opportunity to help members reach their pro bono requirement and expose them to what the legal systems look like outside of the United States,” Deese says. “The support that BLSA gets from firm partners and alumni across the country and world puts BLSA in a great position, enabling us do something like this.”
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