The basic idea behind R2JNC is that many people deal with legal issues everyday without the legal education to make the best decisions for themselves and their families. People living in poverty have even more frequent interactions with the law and government, yet have less access to legal assistance. Our goal is to help women advocate for themselves, and we have four strategies to meet this goal.
We host legal education workshops on a variety of topics. Speakers from nonprofits and law firms who are experts in their field give fundamental background in the law and procedures, strategies with dealing with the law, as well as ways to prevent problems from occurring in the first place. Participants will have a healthy understanding and can share what they learned with their family and neighbors, increasing the legal literacy of the entire community.
Participants also receive materials during the workshop, and after the workshop they have the option to receive updates about the law. R2JNC also collects data from participants, to better inform our partner organizations with how they might better serve the community. Although the Workshop is about education, we believe it should be a two-way education about the issues.
In cooperation with attorney volunteers as well as volunteers from North Carolina law schools, we host legal clinics where women can receive free legal consultations. Volunteers can provide general legal information and referrals to organizations, agencies and attorneys in the community. Currently, R2JNC is not representing clients.
In addition to the consultation, volunteers explain strategies for organizing and preserving documents. We also offer free scanning of documents onto a free thumb drive that the attendees can take home. When dealing with crisis, people often need a little help clarifying what the main problems actually are. The clinic volunteers employ active listening and often attendees figure out problems on their own. Clinic attendees are more organized and understand better the issues they are facing, and R2JNC learns more about the community.
The staff of R2JNC spends many weeks in a community in order to gather information as well as get the news about R2JNC’s programs. Many people in rural North Carolina do not have Internet access or reliable transportation to larger cities where advocates generally operate. We understand that there is a barrier of communication that is unique to each community.
Our director makes connections with people in the local agencies, organizations and relevant businesses. We like to learn about programs that are working well in the community, and we share what we learn when we travel around the state. We work with what already exists in the community, understanding that we are there to supplement and enhance. We also work as a conduit between rural communities and advocates working on issues in the capital or at universities.
Our director, Jennifer Wyatt, also does direct outreach to women in the community, seeking people out wherever she can find them. Jennifer Wyatt’s personal background enables her to make connections that many attorneys do not. Many women have not felt that they have a voice and Ms. Wyatt is sometimes the first person to actively listen to them. Although this can be a slow process, it is one of the most rewarding aspects of working for R2JNC. We believe in active, two-way communication and our outreach efforts are a very important part of our mission.
R2JNC distributes materials to clinic attendees and workshop participants, but we also have materials on hand wherever we go. From Know Your Rights cards to booklets about how to deal with specific legal issues, there are a lot of printed documents produced by other organizations. One of the unique aspects our organization is that we do not believe we need to recreate work that has already been ably completed by others. There are so many fantastic people doing good work in North Carolina, so we expend our energy on getting to know people in the community and making valuable connections. We help partner organizations get their materials out to the community, thereby increasing their impact.
We also produce a community guide once we have completed extensive community networking. In the future, these guides will be created by local high school students who work as interns. The interns will be a valuable resource, not only as a long-term relationship but also to encourage these students to become leaders.