The first thing you notice walking into UNHCR headquarters is the sheer size of the
building. Walking into the atrium, you look straight up, seeing all 8 floors from below, with natural light coming in from the skylight above. Home to almost 700 UNHCR employees, headquarters is the base for over 6,000 other staff members posted all over the globe.
I came to Geneva in April while already in Europe on vacation. Friends thought I was crazy to take a day out of my planned vacation and put in a very full day of meetings at HQ (oh the insanity!). But I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to finally pay a visit and meet the people who I have been emailing and phoning with for the past two years in person. One of the best parts of working with UNHCR is the people and it is important to make connections in person. Despite my 5am wake up call, it was worth it.
I arrived my typical 30 minutes early because ever fearful of being late coupled with a HORRIBLE sense of direction, I didn’t want to get lost. But after asking just one very nice Swiss police officer, I found my destination. As I waited in the lobby for my hosts of the day, Larry Fioretta and Cecile Pouilly, I had time to explore the first level.
Framed flags hang on the walls. They flew in different countries where UNHCR staff have been attacked and/or killed. It is a reminder of our friends and colleagues in the field who we have lost, and it is a reminder that while we may be sitting in our offices in DC, there are real people out there putting their lives on the line so that others may find their way home.
The Blue Key is about showing that each American can make a difference. In the coming weeks I will post about my trip to Geneva so you can meet the faces behind UNHCR and see how each one makes an enormous impact on refugees worldwide.
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