Monday, February 12, 2007

Indian helps Sierra Leonians get justice

An Indian has opted to help the people of war-torn Sierra Leone in West Africa instead of taking up a plush job after graduating from the prestigious Yale University.

Vivek Maru, a 2001 law graduate, is the founding director of Timap For Justice, a non-profit organisation that helps Sierra Leonians resolve legal disputes.

Timap, which means 'stand up' in local language, is dedicated to finding fair and practical solutions to ordinary people's legal problems.

The NGO recently received a shot in the arm with a $879,000 grant from the World Bank's Japan Social Development Fund, said the online edition of India New England.

The organisation started off as a project funded by the country's Justice Initiative and the National Forum for Human Rights. It later branched off and was founded by Maru along with Simeon Koroma, a Sierra Leonian lawyer.

Timap's paralegals, most of whom are recruited locally, operate a mobile unit on a regular basis. The unit drives to different villages and is approached by locals for sorting out their issues.

In a recent case, a community of amputees, who had lost their limbs in the civil war, underwent training in vocational skills like soap-making and dyeing, and were promised a start-up kit with material to start their own businesses. The contractor who was to deliver the material from a Norwegian non-profit group stole the material. The amputees then approached Timap, which helped them get justice.

After completing his undergraduate thesis titled 'Mohandas, Martin, and Malcolm on Violence, Culture and Meaning', Maru worked in the Kutch region of India on watershed development education. He also worked with a women's organisation on giving basic education to girls in the villages of Kutch.

'Since I was pretty young I have had an interest in social justice and the idea of improving our societies. A stint that opened my eyes to the world of non-profit work,' said Maru.

'It prompted me to think why I was interested in this sort of thing. I realised that ultimately we lived in one world and that our fates as humans are all tied to one another,' he remarked.

'I guess I am just attracted to working amongst those who are less well-off,' Maru added.

Link to Indian helps Sierra Leonians get justice