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Human Trafficking Clinic studenst travel to EthiopiaAnn Arbor to Addis Ababa: MLaw Students Build Partnerships Abroad to Combat Human Trafficking

By Jenny Whalen
March 12, 2015

At 7,379 miles, the physical distance between Ann Arbor, Michigan and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia is vast—the political and cultural expanse equally so. But now a partnership between the University of Michigan and Addis Ababa University has begun to bridge that gap as both work to combat human trafficking.

Representing Michigan Law's Human Trafficking Clinic, 3Ls Daniel Cellucci and Danielle Kalil-McLane recently joined two U-M School of Nursing students and five Ross School of Business students on a visit to Ethiopia, where members of the U-M delegation met with Ethiopian citizens interested in establishing a comprehensive services clinic—offering legal, healthcare, counseling, and employment resources—through a partnership with Addis Ababa University.

(View a collection of photos from the visit.)

The trip was organized and led by Eva Foti-Pagán, '12, who previously visited Addis Ababa in January with Clinical Professor of Law Bridgette Carr, '02, who directs the Human Trafficking Clinic. The two had been invited to participate in a symposium hosted by the Ethiopia-Michigan Platform for Advancing Collaborative Engagement (EM-PACE), a project designed to foster bold new Michigan initiatives in Ethiopia—among them the clinic’s own "Triple R" initiative that looks to "Recognize, Respond, and Reintegrate" victims of human trafficking. The purpose of the most recent U-M trip—made possible through financial support from EM-PACE, the International Institute, and the William Davidson Institute—was to help implement this initiative.

“Triple R represents a way for us, and other clinics around the world, to track the life-cycle of a trafficking victim,” Foti-Pagán said. “One thing we have learned at the clinic is that trafficking victims don’t just have legal needs. They also have psychological needs and healthcare needs and, certainly, financial needs. Getting our clients good jobs, for example, is one of the best ways to prevent them from being re-trafficked.”

Cellucci and Kalil-McLane have focused this semester's work on establishing a way for U-M and the Addis Ababa University College of Law and Governance Studies to exchange materials and best practices regarding clinical legal education and advocacy, but while in Addis Ababa, they were able to accomplish much more.

"We had a week full of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. meetings," Kalil-McLane said. "Some of them were at Addis Ababa University, our partner in this project, while others were with nonprofits, government entities, businesses, and hospitals around the city. We set out to learn the needs of the population and how the students at Addis Ababa would be able to meet those needs."

A chief objective of the trip was to gain an understanding of the dialogue that surrounds victims of trafficking. "We wanted to know what sort of stigma might be attached to this population and what barriers we would face in establishing a clinic to serve their needs," Kalil-McLane added. "We had a lot of questions for the different groups we met with."

Those groups were also eager to engage in conversation with their American counterparts.

"At the university, for instance, both the professors and students were interested in learning about the American legal system," Cellucci said. "We had the opportunity to speak in several classes and spent much of the time answering questions about the U.S. legal model. They were very curious about the differences between our legal system and their own."

This exchange of information between Ann Arbor and Addis Ababa will continue as the Ethiopian university prepares to open its clinic this coming fall. (Read more: Clinic efforts in Brazil)

"This was one step in the process and we have so much to do before getting them to the place where they are ready to open their doors," Cellucci said. "This was an amazing trip and answered a lot of questions, but it raised even more."

While Cellucci and Kalil-McLane will conduct the remainder of their work on this project working closely with Foti-Pagán in Ann Arbor, both are grateful to have had the opportunity to meet with their partners abroad and do so as part of an interdisciplinary U-M team.

"To be in a classroom, interacting with law students on the other side of the world, wasn't an opportunity I thought I would have in law school," Cellucci said.

"It was rewarding to work with different professions on the project as well," Kalil-McLane added. "To hear from our peers in the business and nursing schools, as well as work with academics, business leaders, and health care professionals in Ethiopia, gave us an even more comprehensive picture of the project."

And the interdisciplinary conversations went well beyond daytime meetings, said Foti-Pagán, describing how the group met each night over dinner to exchange observations and discuss how they might apply them to the project. “It quickly became clear just how enriching having multiple perspectives at the same table can be. The students did an amazing job collaborating and we all learned a lot from each other. This was interdisciplinary education—and advocacy—at its best.”

Ultimately, this week spent abroad is an experience Cellucci, Kalil-McLane, and their colleagues will long remember (and not only for the reportedly excellent Ethiopian coffee).

Read more feature stories.​​​​​​​​​​​

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