Jona

Community Affairs Intern

My mother’s family was upper middle class until the government seized their land and property. They were left with practically nothing; my mother had to start from scratch.

“I was born in Albania, about 6 years after the communist regime ended. Back in the communist days, corruption was everywhere– if the government didn’t like you, they would take your property or ship you off to a labor camp. The rule of law was not about fairness, but rather about power and money.

My mother’s family was upper middle class until the government seized their land and property. They were left with practically nothing; my mother had to start from scratch.

Resiliently, she built a life and a career for herself. She became a successful lawyer. Still, the corruption was everywhere, and her refusal to give in to bribery forced her to end her career as an attorney.

My exposure to the legal system and to corruption was simultaneous. As I learned about the law, I learned about unfairness and neglect.

Growing up in this environment showed me, in the most extreme sense, how difficult it is to advocate for yourself in a legal system that wasn’t built to protect you.

I was eager to find real equality. For this reason, I decided to go to an international school in Italy, where I could live with and learn from students all over the world. My school had no “others,” and there was no hierarchy.

For the first time, I felt like I lived in a fair community. Knowing that a world like this was possible reaffirmed my interest in law and social service.

You can only improve your well being to the extent that the structures in place allow you to. That is why Open Door Legal’s work drew me in– it’s about rebuilding the entire civil legal system, one where power and money are not necessary for a fair outcome.”

Photography © Kate Flanagan