Forging a Safer South Africa

BLSA Students Aid Violence-Reduction Efforts on Service Trip
Tiffany Mickel, Jordin Dickerson, Jordan LaPointe, Allison Burns, Ambroise Decilap and Natasha Halloran

Tiffany Mickel ’22, Jordin Dickerson ’20, Jordan LaPointe ’22, Allison Burns ’22, Ambroise Decilap ’21 and Natasha Halloran ’21, pictured at Robben Island, traveled to South Africa for the Black Law Students Association’s annual service trip in January. Photos courtesy Natasha Halloran

February 11, 2020

Members of the Black Law Students Association at the University of Virginia School of Law returned to Cape Town, South Africa, to aid efforts aimed at reducing violence.

Allison Burns ’22, Ambroise Decilap ’21, Jordin Dickerson ’20, Natasha Halloran ’21, Jordan LaPointe ’22 and Tiffany Mickel ’22 collectively volunteered roughly 210 pro bono hours during their winter break in January through the organization’s annual service trip.

The students partnered with London-based Norton Rose Fulbright’s pro bono team, mostly doing research and writing. They conducted research for the nonprofit Gun Free South Africa and made curriculum recommendations regarding how to create training for magistrate judges on the nation’s Firearms Control Act. The students also conducted research on gender-based violence on university campuses for the Commission for Gender Equality, a government agency, and presented their findings to their Western Cape provincial manager.

“Our presentation summarized American federal laws such as Title IX and the Clery Act, made recommendations about how to better collect data regarding gender-based violence at universities, and made suggestions regarding how to implement programs — like the mandatory training modules here at UVA — to reduce the occurrence of gender-based violence,” Decilap said.

Outside of their pro bono work, the students visited Franschhoek, a historic winemaking region, and Robben Island, where political prisoners like Nelson Mandela, who went on to serve as the nation’s president, had been incarcerated.

BLSA students also traveled to Cape Town previously to aid residents displaced by apartheid.

Each year, BLSA organizes a service trip abroad, and students apply for a limited number of spots. Past destinations have included Tanzania and Uganda. Those who are accepted receive paid travel expenses and accommodations through BLSA’s relationships with participating law firms.

  • Students participate in a community workshop

    On their first day in South Africa, students broke into groups and completed a variety of community workshop projects, such as instructions for how to train judges and magistrates about domestic violence cases.

  • Child Safe office

    One of the students’ service projects included spending the day at a nonprofit organization called Child Safe. They researched an amicus brief to seek damages for children who were injured or fatally shot because of state negligence.

  • Students seeing Cape Town

    The students soaked up the culture of Cape Town and surrounding areas.

  • Students present findings on Commission for Gender Equality

    On their last day in South Africa, the students presented their findings and recommendations on how the Commission for Gender Equality can improve their resources and administrative structure to combat gender-based violence in higher education.

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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