Out of Africa

A group of trainee solicitors looked further afield when it came to choosing a pro bono challenge to take part in – they traveled all the way to Zambia.

A 12-strong team of Arthur Cox graduate trainees have just returned from a trip to Zambia, in Africa where they renovated an orphanage and medical centre.

The challenge, called the Arthur Cox Mwandi Project, was kicked started by a few trainees who wanted to take some time out before qualifying as solicitors.

The trainees chose Zambia as their destination because the firms founder Arthur Cox left the practice when he was 72-years-old to become a priest in Africa until his death.

It took three months of intense planning and liasing with their associated charity Sli Eile – Gaelic for another way – to organise the trip in July this year.

Derek Hegarty, who took part in the four-week challenge, said it was not all plain sailing. He insisted it was not until the team arrived on the ground in Zambia that they realised the necessity of group cohesion for the project to be successful.

He said: We got there and we were so far away from the nearest village that the logistics for a renovation project seemed impossible. We had no cement, the window panes hadnt arrived, we had no transport and everything seemed to be against us.

The people were like thanks guys for coming and showing some interest but its really not going to happen.

But instead of turning on their heels and heading for the nearest four-star hotel the trainees wouldnt take no for an answer and pooled together to make the project work.

Hegarty, 33, said: We were so determined to do it that we pooled all our money together and brought our own supplies, got some transport and put together a generator. And all our hard work paid off because the project was a great success.

Director of the trainee programme at Arthur Cox Jane Babb said she was really impressed the trainees took the initiative to organise the project themsemves and now plans to offer it to all trainees.

She said: You cant even imagine what they were up against. When they got to the clinic they were the first people to do anything there for 16 years and it was in a terrible state. There were women giving birth on really filthy mattresses that wouldnt look out of place during the time of the plague in London.

The whole thing has taught them to be even more determined and see over the boundaries and limitations that people may put in their way. It has also shown you can make a social contribution working in the corporate sector.