The article below appeared on the University of San Diego School of Law Newsletter.
Darlene Rabena spent her first winter break as a 1L crossing out another item on her bucket list: to open a library in the Philippines. She spent her vacation researching non-profits and came up with an idea that would combine her interests in international business law, her personal desire to help others, and her wish to build on her experience as a first generation Filipino-American when she co-started the California chapter of Bagong Kulturang Pilipino, Inc. (BKP-CA), a non-profit whose goal is to promote literacy in impoverished areas of the Philippines.
Working with various Filipino organizations in Southern California, Darlene has helped open over 20 libraries in the Philippines, including three libraries in her mother's hometown in Cagayan Valley, Philippines. "With the help of a community service grant from the law school, I was able to travel to the Philippines to oversee the project and meet with local government officials and school staff. The best part was seeing the look of excitement on the children's faces when the books started arriving. Throughout my whole 1L year, I’d hear people complain that I had too much reading to do; whereas, over there it's a privilege to even own books. It was a really humbling experience." Darlene hopes to organize a book drive at the law school this spring and host three fundraisers before she has to start studying for the bar.
In addition to implementing BKP-CA's initiatives and maintaining its finances, corporate filings, and fundraising, Darlene is developing her legal focus on international law. Her favorite class so far has been Professor Mike Ramsey's International Business Transactions; and she also found the practical skills taught through the Entrepreneurship Clinic, supervised by Professor Donna Matias, to be directly relevant. "I see Southeast Asia as the next big emerging market, and I want to be ready to be part of that growth."
Darlene has also become involved with another international non-profit in Southeast Asia that is dedicated to rescuing orphaned orangutans, whose habitat is being destroyed by changing agricultural practices throughout Indonesia. In her free time, Darlene enjoys cooking and co-authoring a food blog with her boyfriend: "Some people take up running as a hobby. We take up eating!"