My name is Saisha Vasudeva and I am a second-year Honours Economics student. I am extremely grateful to Mr. Garvin Brown for supporting me with my internship at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Guatemala this summer as a recipient of the Susan Casey Brown Fund for McGill, McGill International Experience Awards.
The Livelihoods and Economic Inclusion Unit at UNHCR Guatemala aims to help people who were forced to flee their homes and are now in a new community by advocating for their right to work, supporting their inclusion in government protection systems, and helping them gain access to work, entrepreneurship, and the labour markets. In such a manner, the unit strives to empower refugees to build strong economic and cultural ties with their host communities and lead independent lives.
This opportunity over the past 3 months has been an extremely enriching and intellectually stimulating experience. I have explored the intersection of economics and development in the context of Guatemala and Latin America, which has furthered my interest in the realm of Developmental Economics. I have learnt a lot about refugee crises, asylum seekers, and internally displaced persons through a series of various training courses to better understand the role of the UN, and more specifically that of the UNHCR. I have learnt how to register refugee data into proGres, the refugee database management system and have also understood how to measure the auto sufficiency of refugees using the Self-Reliance Index (SRI). I had the opportunity to hone my coding and quantitative data analysis skills by using R to understand the SRI scores of different population groups and whether certain characteristics such as health, income, and job opportunities differ across refugees and internally displaced persons. Additionally, I was also given the opportunity to interact with colleagues at the Cash Based Interventions Unit to understand how cash/ vouchers are given to refugees to foster financial inclusion.
Moreover, working in Guatemala has given me the opportunity to hone my Spanish speaking and communication skills. Understanding a new dialect, a new pace of speech, and diving into a new language every day at work was truly an experience like no other. Overall, this internship has had a huge impact on me and has given me great insight to the application of economics to the real world in a developing area. It has driven me to think about the ways in which economic inclusion can be fostered and has reinforced my interest in pursuing a career at the intersection of economics and humanitarian work.
Thank you to the McGill International Experience Awards founders and Mr. Garvin Brown for making this experience possible and for your generous support!