I am always honored to hear how one of our supporters became acquainted with EarthRights International, and reminded of the many ways our work can affect people. Recently, my good friend Rebecca Rockefeller Lambert, Co-Chair of our board of directors, told our supporters how she discovered ERI. Her story, pasted below, is unique and humbling, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Thank you for everything, Rebecca! And thank you to all of our supporters!
Subject: Why I Support EarthRights International
Dear ERI supporter,
It was just after Christmas, 10 years ago, that I embarked on my first journey East. My grandfather, David Rockefeller, invited my brother and me (age 22 and 24, respectively) to travel with him to Burma. I fell in love –
“The villages of Inlay Lake are so beautiful,” I wrote in my journal. “Light splashes on the houses, dancing with the waves. Corrugated, rust-colored roofs compliment the vast green and blue of water, and everywhere golden pagodas glint or stupas protrude.” I was moved by the people: the school children singing American nursery rhymes; vendors who painted thanaka on my face; my friend Moe Moe, who taught me to say “it’s okay,” (yabade), and “thank you” (jesutimbade).
It was this trip that brought me to EarthRights International, through which my love of Burma and her people has only deepened. Though I have not returned to Burma since that first trip, ERI has given me the opportunity to connect in other ways.
On my first trip with the board, I met the plaintiffs in ERI’s landmark Unocal case, who so bravely told their stories of rape, torture and murder, and won a slice of justice against a goliath U.S. corporation. Talk about speaking truth to power – these men and women are true heroes. Last year, with my fellow board members and a group of American supporters, we paired up with the students at the EarthRights School for Burma in Chiang Mai, Thailand and brainstormed solutions to specific problems faced across the border in Burma.
This was in June 2011. The world had nearly given up on Burma. But ERI was steadfast. In the midst of growing apathy, ERI continued its work with the EarthRights School, even opening a new school on the Thai-Burma Border – the Health and EarthRights Training program – to teach health practitioners from Burma about human rights and environmental abuses and what to do about them.
So much has changed since then: elections, a new government and a promise of freedom. It is an exciting time in Burma, but it is also precarious: violent conflict continues, corporations poise to pounce, and the freedom of citizens is still in question.
With Burma is in this hopeful yet fragile state, ERI is in a truly unique position. Since 1999, it has created a network of EarthRights School alumni from Burma and throughout the Mekong region from diverse ethnic backgrounds. These young activists are part of a budding civil society that will hold the new government accountable and protect the land and people. Through the Mekong Legal Program, ERI has already enhanced the power of law to protect citizens in this part of the world, and as Burma strives to formulate a rule of law which will truly benefit the people and not just the interests of the powerful, ERI is positioned to help. Finally, as corporations look to profit from Burma’s natural resources, ERI’s track record, its legal expertise, and its powerful connections, promise to hold feet to the fire, protecting the environment and the people.
It is a truly exciting time to be a board member and donor. I could not be prouder. It is not so frequent in history that countries emerge from the quell of military rule. It is even less frequent that one has an opportunity to help. Yet that is exactly the opportunity we face.
Rebecca Rockefeller Lambert
ERI Board member and donor