A group of law school friends have taken the idea of pro bono one step further and set up a charity to help develop awareness of Aids in developing nations.
The Hope Education Trust was set up in 2003 by Charles Russell property partner Ian Cooke, managing director of BPP Law School Leeds Jonathan Haines and joint head of the legal practice course at London Metropolitan University Rachel Haffner.
“It was just an idea that I and some of my chums at law school had,” says Cooke. “We thought we could raise money for education rather than trying to do the education ourselves.”
The trust supports HIV and Aids community education projects in Cambodia and South Africa and is trying to raise enough money to help in India. South Africa has the single largest population of HIV-infected people in the world, while Cambodia has the worst HIV problem in Asia.
The trust raises money predominantly from the UK and international business communities, while the legal community has been tapped for a few contributions. Cooke is particularly grateful for the support of Charles Russell and its clients.
While this is mainly a money-raising exercise, the team’s legal skills have come in handy. Agreements have been drafted with all the organisations the trust works with in the Third World. “Without those, you don’t have a framework of accountability,” says Cooke.
The trio has funded its own travel to South Africa, Cambodia and India in order to see what the best form of action is. Much of South Africa and Cambodia’s HIV problems stem from a culture of transactional sex and men’s derogatory attitude to women, says Cooke. Education efforts aim to change this.
In contrast, Uganda is generally considered as the ultimate example of a successful fight against the Aids epidemic. Education programmes established by the government, church and community organisations have cut the rate of HIV infection from 8.3 per cent in 1999 to 5 per cent in 2001. In other parts of Africa the rate exceeds 30 per cent and is increasing all the time.
Funds raised by the trust have paid the salaries of local Aids education officers employed on a full-time basis to teach in local communities.
The trust’s plans for India are slightly different. It hopes to link up with a UN project that reaches thousands of people by sending round cinema vans showing educational films.
l Contact the Hope Education Trust at www.hope-trust.co.uk.