Charles Davidson, L'15, came to Richmond Law with an interest in focusing his studies on international law. Davidson earned his undergraduate degree in Spanish, Political Science, and International Studies, and his first job out of college was with a branding consulting agency in Madrid, Spain, where he became fluent in speaking Spanish. When the opportunity to spend time in Peru as an intern with the School of Law's Carrico Center for Pro Bono Service and Richmond Global Health Alliance (RGHA), Davidson jumped at the chance.

In 2007, University of Richmond political science professor Rick Mayes started an experiential Spring Break service trip to Peru for undergraduate students. The group spent a week in Pampas Grande, a small mountain district in Peru, where Dianna Espinoza's, '07, family had established the non-governmental organization PAN Peru (an acronym for "Para Ayudar La Niñez," translates to "To Help the Children) to foster cultural and educational connections for the community. After Dr. Sean McKenna, MD, a pediatrician and professor at the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) School of Medicine, joined the project, the Spring Break program evolved into a medical service for the community, including clinics for pediatrics, joint pain, dermatology, emergency medicine, and women's health.

In 2011, Sean Byrne, '93, L'97, a medical malpractice defense attorney at Hancock, Daniel, Johnson and Nagle in Richmond and adjunct professor at the School of Law, offered his legal services to the team by incorporating the Richmond Global Health Alliance as a Virginia non-profit organization. Byrne was also instrumental in forming a partnership with the School of Law's Carrico Center for Pro Bono Service, which under Professor Tara Casey's direction, recruited law student interns to help develop programs for and participate in RGHA's service trips to Peru.

Davidson's first task as intern was assisting Byrne in revising RGHA's 501(c)(3) application for tax-exempt status. During the 2013 Pampas Grande trip, he served as a translator for the medical team and spearheaded their greenhouse construction project. He explained, "I helped anywhere I could." Byrne said the group has already built three greenhouses for the Pampas Grande community, and they hope to build additional ones during the next trip.

Davidson is also working on developing a social justice project, including a survey for Pampas Grande residents, for future law interns to continue in Peru through the Carrico Center. Davidson said working on a culturally sensitive project is what motivates him. "It puts me in a situation where I'm uncomfortable culturally, and that's what I like. Not knowing something and having to learn it keeps me motivated," he said.

Byrne explained that the Pampas Grande program is an interdisciplinary healthcare service project. "We have undergraduate students working with medical students working with physicians and other professionals, and I was excited to get a law student involved to add another dimension to it. Charles has been great with that—his training as a law student makes him a good problem solver, and he really has had some good collaboration with the healthcare professionals as we carried out our projects."

Robert Stilson, L'14, also served as an RGHA intern through the Carrico Center for the 2013-14 school year. Like Davidson, he was interested in applying what he had learned in international law classes in a practical setting. Stilson said he's been involved in a variety of activities, including drafting letters, reviewing documents, data entry, researching legal issues, and attending RGHA board meetings. He said he enjoyed participating in board meetings every few weeks, which involved contributing to and discussing agenda items as well as giving short presentations on legal issues.

Stilson said he was involved in all aspects of the planning process for the upcoming trip to Pampas Grande, including travel plans and working in the community. He also worked with Davidson and several undergraduate volunteers on creating a survey for residents. He explained, "The big thing you're trying to focus all your efforts on is helping the people—we don't have an agenda that's disconnected from helping them. The survey is really the first step to figuring out what the on-the-ground needs of the community are."

Davidson also serves as a student board member of RGHA. Byrne explained that the organization recruited undergraduates as well as a law student to serve on the board to help generate ideas, insight, and energy from their volunteers. He added, "They take on a lot of responsibility, and Charles has been great with that." He said Davidson's language skills and international travel experience made him a great influence on the group.

Since the last Peru trip, RGHA has focused on developing four pillars of Direct Primary Care, including Community Health Outreach, Youth Development, Mentorship, and Service Learning. Davidson is in charge of the Community Health Outreach Pillar, which involves developing sustainable projects, managing budgets, and creating surveys to help determine the community's needs. He explained, "We want to learn from them as much as they want to learn from us." Davidson also stressed RGHA's dedication to developing a program that is sustainable long-term. "We wanted to do something that lasts," he added.

Stilson said it's been a great experience meeting everyone involved in the project and seeing their dedication to helping the Pampas Grande residents. "Everyone who has gone to Pampas is so committed to this," he added. He also enjoyed collaborating with medical professionals throughout the internship. Stilson explained, "The medical profession is different—the way they think and see problems is totally different. They have a different approach to how things work, and if you are too dogmatic about your association with legal professionals, you miss so much of that." He added, "You have a common external goal that everybody works for—it's such a laudable and tangibly good thing, and that makes the work environment really good."

"It's very much a perspective changing and life changing exposure," said Byrne. As an attorney, he also enjoyed the collaboration with healthcare professionals. "We take the best of both of our skill sets and put them together to try to do some good," he said.

Five VCU medical students and twelve Richmond undergraduates are participating in this year's trip. The undergraduates will continue on to Cusco to complete a summer study abroad program led by Dr. Mayes where students volunteer at a children's hospital, school, and orphanage. "It's a really good opportunity for all involved," said Davidson.

RGHA is currently working on developing a website to help with its fundraising efforts. The organization is selling raffle tickets for goods and entertainment, such as tickets to a Luke Bryan concert in Virginia Beach. "All of the money we raise goes towards the projects, whether it's a greenhouse or medical supplies," said Davidson. He added that students previously raised funds to purchase a truck to serve as an ambulance for Pampas Grande, which is located six hours from the closest city hospital. Byrne said RGHA's goal is to raise $10,000 this year to support the services they provide to the community.

While in Peru, Davidson also had the opportunity to hike the Inca Trail in the Andes Mountains, go white water rafting, ride a zip-line, and visit Machu Picchu. While hiking, he also collected water samples from several villages. Davidson said one of the best parts of the experience was being in Pampas Grande and learning the local Quechua language. He added, "I got to immerse myself not just in the community of Peru, but in a little mountain community of Peru."

Davidson will participate in the next trip to Pampas Grande, which will take place this coming June. After he graduates in December, Davidson plans to pursue an L.L.M. degree with a focus in international law.

Byrne said the project is continuing to grow each year, and the law students have been a big part of that growth and success. He added, "Giving law students the opportunity to collaborate with other professionals in non-profit service projects is a really cool part of it."