Sara Heydari

Tehran, Iran

Career goal: Design and implement harm-reduction programs for marginalized populations.

Internship outline: Sara conducted an evaluation to determine the effectiveness of HIV prevention, substance abuse treatment and care services which are offered to Afghan refugee injecting drug users (IDUs) through four drop-in centers (DICs) located in the cities of Mashhad and Tehran. The program was implemented with the goal of improving Afghan refugee IDUs accessibility to the aforementioned services and reducing the adverse consequences of drug abuse for individuals and the society as whole. The evaluation was based on taped semi-structured interviews, discussion groups and a review of all major documents at each of the four DICs funded by UNODC.

Value of experience: My internship at UNODC helped me gain a better understanding of the challenges associated with the proper implementation, management and evaluation of harm reduction programs targeting marginalized populations in a socially conservative setting. Having the opportunity to work independently on the development and execution of an evaluation plan helped me gain valuable qualitative research skills. My overall internship experience and the inspiring work of my colleagues have solidified my desire to work with marginalized populations in the Middle East.  

Best moment/experience: Having the opportunity to spend time at the DICs in Tehran and Mashhad was the most memorable part of my internship. Interviewing the drug users visiting these centers and in a few cases, getting to meet and speak to their families, was definitely an experience that I will never forget.

Sara Heydari