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What We Do and Why

What good is teaching a man to fish if you take away his right to fish, pollute his fishing spot, or steal his fish?

Village Rights International was founded by director Benjamin Goodman after he studied and witnessed firsthand the legal issues faced by indigenous communities in Latin America.

As a child of missionaries, Benjamin also spent his childhood in close contact with the Kuna community of Morti in the Darien rainforests of Panama. As an adult, Benjamin studied indigenous rights and international development issues in pursuit of a Master of Arts in Development and a J.D. from the University of Florida. He successfully completed these degrees in May of 2012.

Benjamin's Master's Thesis was based on ethnographic field research in Panama. The research focused on legal and institutional issues in the case of a USAID funded community-based forest management development project in the Kuna indigenous community of Morti. While pursuing his JD, Benjamin focused on international law and indigenous rights issues.

Rooted in this unique experience, Benjamin founded VRI in order to encourage indigenous communities to "take the law into their own hands" - in a good way. VRI works with indigenous communities to assist them in harnessing the power of the law in order to achieve their own vision for conservation and development.