Summer 2010

ON THE GROUND IN ASIA: First Luce Scholar Assists Legal Aid Effort

"Extraordinary and life-changing" -- Micah West (2009 Luce Scholar, Lao PDR)

Micah West is the first Luce Scholar ever to be placed in Laos. In 2009 he started work at the Lao Bar Association, a partner organization in our Access to Justice program. In 2007, the association, with our assistance, launched the nation’s first mobile legal aid clinic. Lawyers and paralegals go to villages so that residents – especially women, ethnic minorities, the poor, and vulnerable – who might have consulted friends on legal matters in the past, can now query lawyers about land rights, property inheritance, lawful contracts, and other issues. Micah recently traveled to remote and mountainous Oudomxay to observe and assist with the effort. There, he helped conduct follow-up meetings with a 15-year-old Hmong woman whose boyfriend disappeared quickly after finding out she was pregnant, leaving her with no financial resources or support to raise their child. Through village mediation they tracked the boyfriend down and a settlement was negotiated. The young woman is now using the money to open a store. “Extraordinary and life-changing,” Micah says of his experience so far. The Luce Scholars program was established by the Henry Luce Foundation in 1974, and, in partnership with The Asia Foundation, provides opportunities for young Americans to gain a firsthand understanding of Asia by living and working for a year in an Asian nation.