2018 Summer Internship Series: Dia Sharaf at the International Rescue Committee

by: Dia Sharaf ’19

My work this summer was with the Economic Recovery and Development (ERD) unit at the International Rescue Committee (IRC) Headquarters in NYC.  The ERD unit works to ensure that IRC’s beneficiaries, people whose livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster, have their most basic survival needs met and have the combination of assets and income to prosper, in IRC’s effort to enable them to survive, recover, and gain control of their future.

During my time with IRC, I have gained valuable insights to the ERD unit’s work in supporting people’s economic wellbeing by implementing evidence-based programming and approaches. Among the interesting projects that I was exposed to are IRC’s Cash Relief programming, one of the fastest growing evidence-based interventions in the humanitarian sector, their Food Security projects, the Client Centric Bundled Services, the Women’s Economic Empowerment, and IRC’s Market-Based and Market-Strengthening Approaches.

By being the Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Intern, and by working directly with the Digital Data Manager, Elizbeth Parr (IPED ’17), my main role was the development of resources and digital data collection tools to support IRC’s work in the field. Specifically, I have assisted in building IRC’s resources library for CommCare, a digital platform designed for data collection, client management, decision support, and behavior change communication. I have edited and maintained surveys and case management applications for different country program including Somalia, Iraq, Chad, Uganda, and Thailand. Moreover, I was tasked with the creation of a live data analysis and visualization “Power BI” dashboard for IRC’s Livelihoods Center in Iraq. I also had the chance to have many informational interviews with different people in the organization to chat about their past experiences, their current work, and their professional journey.

This was a great opportunity for me to gain first-hand experience working in the humanitarian sector, while learning about the different aspects of IRC’s work, ERD unit’s programming, and the work of the technical unit. I had the opportunity to get involved with an inspiring organization and to put what I have learned in IPED into practice. Overall, I have gained valuable M&E technical skills while working on digital platforms such as CommCare, KoBo Toolbox, and Power BI; I have developed my knowledge management and content development skills; and most importantly, I have had the chance to work with experienced and inspiring people in the field that I am most interested in.


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2018 Summer Internship Series: Mahlatse Ramoroka at the Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR)

by: Mahlatse Ramoroka ’19

I spent the summer of 2018 working as a research intern at the Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR) in New York, Brooklyn. CESR seeks to promote economic, social and cultural justice through the realization of universal human rights. The organization mainly works to uphold human rights to education, health, water, food, work, housing, and other social, economic and cultural rights indispensable to human dignity.

As part of the Human Rights in Sustainable Development program, I was tasked with: (1) Collating information (especially related to VNRs), research and support for planned events/advocacy activities for the United Nations High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF); (2) Participating in the HLPF and providing follow-up support in drafting a blog post assessing the 2018 HLPF;  (3) Initial research on the 2030 Agenda’s pledge ‘Leave No One Behind’, providing conceptualizations grounded in human rights; (4) Research support and data collation regarding South Africa’s submission to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, under the Rights Claiming and Accountability Program.

Mahlatse worked as an intern in CESR doing research on human rights in sustainable development

Working on the South Africa project was one of the most fulfilling experiences. Mainly because I’m South African but also because the research and drafting process taught me a lot about economic measurement indicators used in human rights work.

I would highly recommend CESR to anyone interested and looking for work experience in human rights work.

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United Nations Trip 2018

by: Patrick Fernandez ’20

Last October 26, first-year IPED students had a full day of meetings and tour at the United Nations complex in Manhattan, New York. The day started with a meeting with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) – Nature for Development Team with a presentation by Nicole DeSantis, Programme Specialist for the New York Declaration on Forests. She was also joined by the other members of the team: Martin Sommerschuh, Programme Analyst for the Equator Initiative; Maddie Craig, Programme Specialist for the New York Declaration on Forests; and Meghna Ravishankar, Programme Consultant for the New York Declaration on Forests. They talked about the different projects that their team in UNDP is doing to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which includes the Equator Prize, UN Biodiversity Lab, and Policy Support for governments among many others. The students had questions on the role of private firms, impact assessment, political limitations, and nature-based solutions for indigenous peoples.

Nicole DeSantis explaining the work they do in UNDP

IPED students during the meeting with UNDP

Discussions on the Sustainable Development Goals

IPED students together with the UNDP Nature for Development Team

The students then headed to UNICEF to have a meeting with Tyler Porth, Statistics Specialist at UNICEF. Mr. Porth presented the importance and impact of data and statistics in their work at UNICEF. He also highlighted their effort on making their programs easy-to-use for the people on the ground so that more informed decisions backed up by data can be made. Mr. Porth also shared his experiences of going into the communities in different countries and actually seeing the impact of the data and statistics they are analyzing. The students asked him for tips on studying statistics tools, his favorite part of the job, and the effects of technology on developing countries.

IPED students at UNICEF

Meeting with Mr. Tyler Porth from UNICEF

IPED students together with Mr. Tyler Porth

The group then had lunch at the UN Delegates Dining Room together with some second year IPED students and Mr. Bruno Brant, IPED alumnus ’01.

Lunch at the UN Delegates Dining Room

Dr. Schwalbenberg together with IPED alumnus, Bruno Brant ’01

In the afternoon, the group proceeded to the US Mission for a meeting with Millie Meyers, Director of Special projects, Jason Lawrence, Adviser for Economic and Social Affairs (Foreign Service Officer), and James Duke (IPED ’19), who currently interns at the US mission. James shared his experience of working for the US mission and the process he had to undergo. They also shared about the different paths available in foreign service. Mr. Lawrence also shared about the difficulty of balancing professional and personal life because of the demands of the job. He noted, though, that it is manageable and the administration has been improving over the years.

IPED students and the representatives from the US Mission

The day ended with a tour of the United Nations Headquarters. The guide took us to the different chambers and halls of the headquarters. There were a lot of informative history about the UN that the guide highlighted while we make the tour.

One of the many artwork at the UN Headquarters depicting man’s struggle and journey for peace

IPED students at the UN Security Council Hall

A mural at the UN Headquarters depicting the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl

IPED Students at the UN General Assembly Hall

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2018 Summer Internship Series: Clare Pressimone at CRS Student Ambassador Leaders Together (SALT) Summit

by: Clare Pressimone ’19

Clare Pressimone, an IPED Salesian Fellow, received support through IPED Summer Funding to accompany two undergraduate students to Catholic Relief Services’ Student Ambassador Leaders Together (SALT) Summit held at Loyola University in Baltimore, MD from July 16-18. Clare, formerly the President of the CRS Student Ambassador chapter at her alma mater, Cabrini University in Radnor, Pennsylvania, joined Fordham University sophomores Kayla Auza and Noah Sherer at the three-day conference networking with nearly 60 universities and colleges from across the country. They gathered information and ideas on how to begin a CRS Student Ambassador group on Fordham University.

CRS Student Ambassadors operate as the education and advocacy arm of Catholic Relief Services – the international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States – on college and university campuses. Ambassadors orchestrate programming throughout the school year, both within the campus community and the greater local community, striving to encourage individuals to engage in important issues such as climate change, migration and human trafficking, food insecurity and poverty. Ambassadors might educate individuals on the following: how to shop more ethically; reducing one’s impact on the climate; building knowledge and skills to contact members of Congress to speak up on behalf of marginalized communities; acting in solidarity with those who face food insecurity through sharing simple meals, etc. It is the role of the Ambassadors to help members of the community better understand why international issues which effect the poorest, most vulnerable and most marginalized people around the world must become issues on which we, as members of the global community, need to act.

Some members of the newly formed CRS Student Ambassadors chapter at Fordham University

At the CRS SALT Summit, Clare, Kayla and Noah gained greater insight into how the objectives of CRS Student Ambassadors might be implemented at Fordham. The first two days were filled with informational sessions, both for students and advisors, providing insight into the importance of the CRS Student Ambassadors to the agency’s work, along with how CRS might provide materials, trainings and overall support to all of the Ambassadors’ endeavors on their campuses. The sessions were led by CRS staff and university partners. These meetings were held both on Loyola’s campus and at CRS Headquarters.

Clare, Kayla and Noah at the CRS SALT Summit

The final day of the conference was spent on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. After receiving practical advocacy training and having studied the issues, Kayla, Noah and their fellow students from other New York area schools met with their members of Congress to speak up on behalf of those most in need.

Students from Fordham University, St. John’s University, Manhattan College and Mount St. Mary College with a member of Senator Chuck Schumer’s staff.

Clare is providing her experience as an alumna of the CRS Student Ambassador program to help guide and promote the new Ambassador group at Fordham. She is serving as the group’s advisor as it begins its programming through the support of the IPED Department. The beginning of the fall 2018 semester began with inviting and recruiting other undergraduate students to join in the important efforts of the CRS Student Ambassadors. It is exciting to see this group getting off the ground and empowering the Fordham community to act on behalf of those most in need around the world. Keep an eye out for how you can get involved in the work of CRS at Fordham!

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2018 Summer Internship Series: Masud Rahman in Rural Uganda

by: Masud Rahman ’19

My work with UNDP in 2018 focused extensively on impact investing and other alternative financial vehicles focusing on the sustainability bottom line in community-led efforts. As a part of the work, I had the privilege to join our team in an investment scoping mission in Uganda. IPED helped me take this amazing trip through the IPED Summer Internship Fellowship.

During our short trip, we went to visit the Kayonza Growers Tea Factory in the remote region of Kanungu, at the border of Southwest Uganda. Kayonza is an Equator Prize 2015 winner. It is a cooperative tea processing plant owned by upwards of 7,000 smallholder tea growers in the region. The tea plantations cover the beautiful Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, a rainforest that is one of the last homes of mountain gorillas across the world.

Kayonza is fully owned by the farmers who supply green leaves to the plant for processing. The plant processes them and sells the tea to blenders at the Mombasa tea auction with the help of Uganda Tea Development Agency. Farmers receive a premium for their crop since they are able to share the profits by cutting down on the middlemen. The business impacts the region by providing food security to the community, both through the modest yet stable income tea provides as well as dedicated initiatives for climate-smart agriculture. The tea factory also helps conserve wildlife and nature by providing alternative livelihoods at a premium in order to deter the community from using the rainforest as a means to their economic livelihood.

We went to Kayonza to scope out the business prospects, investment readiness, and sustainability practices of the business. We spent our days visiting the plant, the tea estates, and deep dive discussions with the management and the community. Kayonza has been a profitable venture for its shareholders for quite some time. However, the yield increase resulting from good farming and land management practices has caused a bittersweet problem for the processing unit. The current yield surpasses their processing capacity, resulting in wasting in the crop production. Our discussion of the investment prospects centered around extending into a new plant, and alternative ways of taking care of the excess yield.

Kayonza’s focus on benefiting the community was extremely pleasing for us. The areas of impact included rainforest and wildlife conservation, water, energy use, gender, labor health and safety, community economic livelihood, food security and land use. Further detail on their impacts on the community and the wildlife are documented in their Equator Initiative profile, and the accompanying mini documentary. Our visit to Kayonza was also documented in further detail in a photo essay that was written by fellow IPED student and UNDP Programme Assistant Kelly Cannon for the New York Declaration on Forests, focusing on how alternative livelihoods can contribute to a reduction in deforestation.

During the mission, I learned various ways of assessing and quantifying impact, and was able to enhance my skills to evaluate investment readiness for potential investment opportunities. Our findings and steps forward will be available soon on the Equator Initiative website.

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