Originally from Mexico, Rebeca Moreno Jimenez graduated in 2015 with an MPA and concentration in economic and political development. She is currently Innovation Officer & Data Scientist at UNHCR.

Describe your experience at SIPA.

I cannot even begin to describe the many different ways my experience in SIPA has changed my personal and professional life. I know migration and poverty, because I grew up with it on the border of Mexico and the U.S.

During the 1994 “Tequila Crisis” my family lost it all, including our home, and we lived for years in deep urban poverty. In the cold winters, without enough money to pay for heat, we used to put newspapers on the windows to keep warm inside our small apartment.

The first time I stepped into Za’atari refugee camp near the Syria-Jordan border in January 2015, I saw the same newspapers on the windows in the shelter housing units covered in a thin layer of snow. When I saw the newspapers on the windows, I remembered the feeling of losing your home and lacking food in a cold winter.

In Za’atari, my SIPA EPD Workshop team was assessing World Food Programme (WFP) budget shortfall and its effects on both refugees and host communities. Some refugees were cut almost 50% their food income and its socio-economic effects were appalling: families skipped meals and some took their children out of school to beg.

This workshop, classes in peacebuilding and participating in the Dean’s Public Policy Challenge all created a full revolution in my thinking. In the lapse of the two-year SIPA experience, I switched my career completely. I decided to focus my life mission to support and create technology-led solutions for preventing conflict, sustaining peace and helping the most vulnerable people around the world.

How do you think SIPA helped you achieve your goals?

I joined the United Nations High-Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Innovation unit in June 2015. Our team’s role is to boost impact by amplifying, connecting and exploring innovative solutions to alleviate suffering and help those people who are forced to flee home. We use technology and digital platforms to improve service delivery to affected communities. We help the many different UNHCR teams around the world and forced displaced persons to create their own ideas and implement them. At the end, they are the true innovators, overcoming hardship with creativity. We just create the structure to lift it.

Working for the UN Refugee Agency has been a privilege and an enormous professional opportunity that I wouldn’t have achieved if it was not thanks to SIPA. SIPA provided me with the relevant tools to think forward to futures that do not exist yet and how to design innovative solutions. After visiting now numerous refugee settings in different countries and talking with many young women and girls who have suffered the worst experiences when fleeing home, I cannot help but wonder if one of those girls living in poverty and forced displacement conditions could someday attend SIPA. My driving force—at work and in life—is thinking that we are helping them to do so.