Fulbright Scholar and current VLA at Asylum Access Ecuador in Quito, Anne Davis is originally from San Diego, California. Anne received her Bachelors in Political Science and Spanish from the University of Michigan in 2008. She started her service in September and will be working in Ecuador until May.
Name: Anne Davis
Hometown: San Diego, CA
Degrees: Bachelors of Arts in Political Science and Spanish, University of Michigan 2008
What type of law did you practice before volunteering with Asylum Access?
I worked as a paralegal for 2+ years with a large firm in Washington DC. The practice group I worked with focused on Criminal Defense and Government Investigations. I worked on several pro-bono projects, including an ABA Training of Sudanese Attorneys, a Guardian Ad Litem case, and I assisted an attorney in teaching a “Street Law” class at a charter high school in DC.
What made you volunteer as a VLA?
I learned about Asylum Access through a mutual friend who worked as a VLA in Ecuador. I am interested in human rights, and was interested in incorporating work with Asylum Access Ecuador as part of a Fulbright Student Scholar grant.
Please describe a typical work day in Ecuador.
The days vary quite a lot. If I am in charge of client consultations, much of my day will be filled with meeting clients. Other days I focus more on my work with Mobile Clinics; this includes work on an investigation regarding discrimination against refugees and asylum seekers in Ecuador. About once a month I travel to help give refugee rights workshops. I try to arrive at the office before 9, and generally leave a little after 5.
Please describe a typical weekend day or day off in Ecuador.
I am currently training to climb Cotopaxi and Chimborazo, two of the big volcanoes in Ecuador, and so most weekends I’ve been climbing in preparation. There are many great weekend getaways from Quito as well. This past weekend I went to the cloud forest in Mindo and did several hikes and a chocolate tour!
Tell a story about a language barrier or cultural difference.
Initially communication in Spanish was an issue, especially over the phone. While it is not perfect, it has definitely become easier, especially with the help of my Spanish teacher who I meet with once a week for two hours. I still have some trouble understanding the Cuban accent and frequently have to ask Cuban clients to speak more slowly.
What is your best memory of your Ecuador experience?
One of my favorite memories is getting over my fear of public speaking by giving refugee rights workshops in Spanish. I practiced beforehand, and was definitely nervous, but in the end, it was not horrible and I have become more and more comfortable with giving the presentations each time.
What is your favorite way to de-stress while in Ecuador?
Exercise- I run regularly before work at Parque Carolina.
What was your greatest accomplishment as a VLA?
Public speaking in Spanish!
What was the greatest professional challenge you faced as a VLA?
Understanding the limitations of the services we provide to clients. Often times, clients come in with problems that extend beyond the realm of legal services—psychological problems, health problems, familial problems, etc. While we refer clients to other organizations that focus on these problems, it is hard being face-to-face with a person, hearing their stories and not being able to solve all of their problems.
What do you see as the greatest challenge to asserting refugee rights in Ecuador?
Discrimination and lack of awareness regarding the rights of refugees are the greatest challenges to asserting refugee rights in Ecuador.
What one resource did you need that Asylum Access didn’t have?
An open-faced scanner with a glass plate, especially since the government has started requiring copies of client identification when we g0 to request case files. It would be much easier to scan passports with this type of scanner.
How will this experience shape your future career plans/goals?
My experience with AAE has been eye-opening and has reinforced my goals to pursue a career in public service. This fall I will start my masters program in Public Policy, and hope to focus on program evaluation and policy analysis. My time at AAE has opened my eyes to the importance of program evaluation in attracting donors. Direct client contact has allowed me to see first-hand the reality faced by many people around the world, and this experience fuels my drive to work in public service and human rights.
VLAs are accredited lawyers and highly-qualified law students who pay their own way to work in Asylum Access offices abroad.