Erica Weston

Erica Weston ’15 on the Dalhousie University campus in Nova Scotia, where she interns with the Dallaire Initiative

Colgate students are participating in internships in a variety of fields and locations this summer. This post is by Erica Weston ’15, a peace and conflict studies and Asian studies double major from Hamden, Conn.

This summer, I’m interning with the Romeo Dallaire Child Soldier Initiative in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I’m working alongside Tess Cumpstone ‘15, and our internship is through the Peace and Conflict Studies Program’s Peace and Human Security Summer Fellowship.

I am conducting independent research on how religious communities and leaders — mainly in African countries — advocate for societal change and provide social services, such as health care and education, to their communities.

This background research will provide the Dallaire Initiative with a better foundation to understand how some religious groups may be uniquely suited to advocate in their communities for the protection of children and provide tangible help to children at-risk for recruitment as soldiers.

Eventually, the initiative hopes to run training programs with religious leaders to teach effective methods for preventing the recruitment of child soldiers in their countries. My research is a first step toward that goal.

Founded by General Romeo Dallaire in 2007, the Child Soldier Initiative’s mission is to “develop and implement new strategies and tactical guidance to eradicate the use of child soldiers around the world.”

Dallaire is a retired lieutenant-general, senator, and notable humanitarian who acted as a commander for the United Nations during the Rwandan genocide. His experiences, particularly witnessing genocide, turmoil, and the military’s use of children, inspired him to establish the Child Soldier Initiative.

It’s fascinating how the Dallaire Initiative influences African countries’ security sector through advocacy and hands-on training to make real changes in policies to safeguard children’s rights in conflict zones.

It’s exciting to see how my research into what religious congregations and faith-based NGOs have done in the past to fight for people’s rights and eliminate injustice can be used to influence future Dallaire Initiative programs designed to train religious leaders to protect their communities’ children from recruitment.

So far, I have focused on researching the role of religious leaders in their communities, but jobs at the Dallaire Initiative are fluid, and I may have opportunities to help with other projects during the summer—such as writing literature reviews or helping prepare for an outreach event.

In the future, I hope to work for an international organization geared towards fighting and preventing human trafficking. Learning how the Dallaire Initiative takes academic research and think-tank strategies and applies them to in-the-field social activism is an invaluable complement to my Colgate Peace and Conflict studies education.

Is your organization still seeking intern candidates? Staff at the Center for Career Services would be pleased to speak with you. Please call 315-228-7380 or e-mail ccs@colgate.edu.

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