Law Students Prepare for Malawi Trip by Raising Funds and Gathering Supplies

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

University of Illinois College of Law students will be heading to Malawi over spring break to obtain a stronger understanding of how microfinance works in communities of Africa. In preparation for their trip, they are collecting supplies to donate to local primary schools.

In an effort to help enhance opportunities for Malawi children to learn effectively, the law students are gathering donations of basic school supplies, including paper, pens, and pencils, new or gently used shoes, eyeglasses, and books. Also hoping to assist the local economy, they are collecting wedding dresses for a local entrepreneur who rents them to local brides.

One donation bin has already been filled and over $400 donated. Supplies and donations will be collected at the College of Law until March 13. Additionally, Quality, a downtown Champaign bar, is hosting an event on March 8, in which 10% of the proceeds will be donated to the effort.

The 15 students going on the college-sponsored trip, led by Professor Christine Hurt, will be going to Blantyre, the commercial capital of Malawi; Zomba, Urbana's sister city and the former (colonial) capital; and Lisanjala, a small village. They will be visiting for-profit and non-profit organizations, several marketplaces, a church, a primary school, and a law school hoping to obtain a comprehensive understanding of the country, how its economy works, how community life plays a role in the economy, and how those elements factor into the success and workings of microfinance.

Malawi, known as the “warm heart of Africa” for the friendliness of its people, is unfortunately among the very poorest of countries with a GDP per capita of $343 per year (in 2010). Well over 10 percent of the population has HIV/AIDS, and the life expectancy in Malawi is 53 years. Few Malawians have access to running water, and water security is an issue that touches almost every aspect of life. The students are traveling with a geologist from the Illinois Geological Survey, Dr. Tim Larson, who will introduce them to water-infrastructure officials to examine the importance and mechanics of secure water sources.

Read the News-Gazette coverage