2015 PFIG Recipient Alexia Koch
Journal Entry #1
On the morning of May 11th, I made my way to 64 Rue de Monthoux in Geneva, Switzerland, to the headquarters of International Bridges to Justice. Located on the 3rd floor of the building, the office is modest, with various posters and pictures decorating the walls and tall stacks of papers and colorful binders cluttering the desks. Sanjeewa Liyanage, IBJ’s International Program Director, welcomed me and brought me to the conference room where he briefly introduced me to the tasks and responsibilities I would be assigned over the next three months.
International Bridges to Justice is an NGO that works to protect the basic legal rights of ordinary people in prisons throughout the world. With programs in Cambodia, China, India, Burundi, Rwanda and Zimbabwe, IBJ stays true to its name in its continuous efforts to be the bridge between ordinary people and the basic legal rights they are constitutionally entitled to. By training lawyers, holding round table events for key members of the local legal systems, and leading rights awareness campaigns, IBJ’s efforts are geared toward ensuring prisoners are not tortured into confessions or denied their basic rights in any other way. By working to provide speedy access to justice, IBJ combats prison over-crowding and other negative consequences of inefficient legal systems.
The Geneva office functions as the coordinator of the country programs, and more importantly as the fund-raising center of the organization. As the only French speaker in the office, I have been assigned various administrative tasks related to Geneva’s extensive bureaucracy, in addition to a sample of grant proposals that will need to be written in French. During my first three days here, a Swiss intern who just finished her internship taught me how to apply for work permits for all incoming non-Swiss interns, a task I am now fully in charge of. Someone joked that it would be my fault if anyone got deported, and I’m still surprised I didn’t break into a cold sweat at the thought.
After only a week here, I already feel like an old member of the team. I have been assigned grant applications for francophone foundations, and will soon begin working on an application to the City of Geneva to fund IBJ’s Zimbabwe program. I am quickly learning who to ask and who to avoid when I have questions, and although I occasionally find the scale of my responsibilities daunting, I have found it has given me the confidence to dive into projects I would have previously thought myself under qualified to carry out.