The Weston Rotary met Aug. 22 and listened to a talk from guest speaker Sarah Nealis.
Nealis is a Lewis County native and resident who works for the global law firm Shearman and Sterling, North America.
She earned her bachelor’s degree from WVU and her law degree from the University of Houston.
Nealis performs pro bono work through her employer, saying the firm works to match employers with their personal interests.
In May of this year, the law firm asked Nealis if she wanted to volunteer for Lawyers Without Borders.
Nealis said the group goes to third world countries to help write legislation and/or a justice system.
They also work to train government officials on how to enforce legislation, she added.
Nealis found herself working on a project to educate the Tanzania government on how to protect elephants and rhinoceros from poachers and teach citizens their role in protecting these animals.
Tanzania government officials had requested help with wildlife trafficking.
Nealis said part of the problem is the people living in Tanzania do not have access to television and are not aware of how badly the animals need protection.
“They don’t understand that the elephants are in danger,” she said. “They definitely don’t think Americans care.”
Nealis said the problem is similar to deer coming into yards and eating flowers or food from the garden.
There are sustainable communities where residents grow their own food and elephants think nothing of it to walk into a yard to eat.
Nealis said the higher ranking government officers understand about the animals being endangered. They also understand that the animals are their biggest chance to draw in tourists.
“Westerners love to come and see the animals,” she said.
Nealis and the other participants from Lawyers Without Borders worked with about 100 Tanzania officials, including magistrates and prosecutors. The officials were trained on how to prosecute and conduct a trial.
Nealis said the country has only recently adopted a trial system, and they don’t fully understand how to prosecute someone.
“If there is not an admission, they don’t get prosecuted,” she said. “They do not expect people to lie.”
There are four officers who oversee other officers who are in the communities. They work to get the community behind them in their efforts, Nealis said. Classes were held every day for a week from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Participants worked on communication skills, giving presentations that they would then take to the communities to teach them awareness.
“It was a really amazing experience for me to go and see their receptiveness to information,” she said.
Weston Rotary meets each Wednesday at 12 p.m. They will not have a speaker at their Aug. 29 meeting as it is a working meeting.