Gretchen C. Bellamy joins Miami Law as the Director of International Public Interest Programs for the HOPE Public Interest Resource Center. Before joining in April, Ms. Bellamy earned a J.D. and an LL.M. in international and comparative law from Duke University School of Law in 2005. While in law school, Ms. Bellamy pursued an externship where she worked for an international non-governmental organization in Harare, Zimbabwe. In addition, she studied comparative law at the University of Nairobi in Kenya. Ms. Bellamy's pursuit of these experiences was a continuation of her prior domestic and international public interest activities.
Ms. Bellamy's desire to affect change began unsuspectingly as an undergrad. While pursuing a B.A. in international relations at the University of Delaware, during her junior year, she began working for a transitional homeless women's shelter as an Assistant House Manager. What started out as part-time job paying $10 an hour turned into a life changing experience-she was promoted to House Manager and her commitment to public service was solidified.
She admits it was a tough job. She hadn't worked with indigent clients prior to accepting the position. But she says she quickly learned how to juggle her studies, while administering assistance to women and their children at the shelter.
"It was one of the hardest things I had to do,"she said. Quitting wasn't an option for her either. "It was being in the community helping those less fortunate than me that kept me going." And since then, she hasn't stopped giving to the community.
Her true passion for international public interest work, however, began in Africa – a seed planted during her first trip to the continent while working in Cameroon as a Peace Corps Volunteer in 2001. Since her return from central Africa, it's been her mission to promote positive international development through the law.
For the past five years, Ms. Bellamy has been a member of the American Bar Association's Section of International Law (ABA-SIL). She began as a member of the Africa Committee's Steering Group, but quickly moved up through the ranks to become one of its co-chairs in 2009. She leads the strategic development of the 450+ member committee, which culminated in the committee winning the ABA-SIL "Outstanding Committee"award in 2010. In addition to her work with the Africa Committee (which focuses on human rights and doing business on the continent), she serves as a Vice Chair for Research for the ABA IMPOWR (International Models Project on Women's Rights) Task Force as well as a member of the International Trial Monitoring Task Force. Ms. Bellamy's tenure as a leader of the Africa Committee will come to an end in July 2011 as she has been appointed to serve as the Diversity Officer for the ABA-SIL.
Now, she wants to focus her attention at Miami Law toward getting students engaged with other internationally-minded legal professionals and legal opportunities throughout the world.
"This is the first place I ever walked in on the first day that I felt so comfortable,"said Bellamy of the hospitality she received at the HOPE Public Interest Resource Center. She recognizes that her life has always been fueled by a desire to give, and she wants to help students be able to hone in on jobs that fulfill their fundamental need to make a difference through the law. "I'm uniquely positioned to advise students about navigating their path to do international public service or pro bono work while in law school as well as after they graduate, no matter whether they work for a private law firm or a non-profit organization."
Gretchen Bellamy. (Photo: Miami Law)