While most juniors in college are happy just to find a summer job or an unpaid internship that will pay off in the long run, SMU junior Sienna Dugan is working for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Rwanda (UNHCR).
Under the guidance of SMU Associate Professor Andrew Quicksill from the Lyle School of Engineering, Dugan is collecting field data on refugee camps in Rwanda including mapping of resources and infrastructure, measurements of structures, photos of infrastructure and land forms, ground truthing of land use, and water and soil samples for lab analyses. The data Dugan collects will then be utilized by both the UNHCR and the Rwandan Government to determine the best allocation of resources to each camp to ensure environmental sustainability for both refugees in the camps and neighboring citizens.
While the United States has recently been censured by U.N. Human Rights High Commissioner Michelle Bachelat for the conditions of migrant children held on the U.S.-Mexico border, the Rwandan Government is working closely with the U.N. to transform their own refugee camps to uphold international human rights laws and better accommodate the increasing number of inhabitants. As Dugan explains, “the global refugee crisis has reached never before seen proportions,” and “fresh waves of longstanding unrest in the DRC have displaced an estimated 4.5 billion people, many of whom have sought refuge in Rwandan refugee camps.”
Based in a small village by the Tanzanian border with no running water and only occasional electric power, Dugan leaves for the camps every morning at 7:30 a.m. and returns around 5:30 p.m. In addition to her work on camp infrastructure, Dugan has been assisting with food distribution and school enrollment. In Mahama refugee camp, home to around 60,000 refugees from nearby Burundi, Dugan is working with an advocacy group supporting teen mothers who are attempting to finish their high school education.
A Health and Society major at SMU with minors in Global Development and Psychology, Dugan is concurrently taking classes which will count toward an M.A. in Sustainability and Development with an emphasis in Public Health.