On January 12, a 7.0 Mw earthquake hit the western part of the island of Hispaniola. The epicenter of the quake was only 16 miles away from the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince. Haiti is an extremely impoverished country so it goes without saying that the nation was woefully unprepared for a disaster of such magnitude.
With hundreds of thousands dead and wounded, the country's government brought to a standstill and even the UN mission in the country suffering large casualties, the world responded to Haiti's cry for help.
This made my life interesting as well. The unit I've been interning for at UNHCR since I got back in January is in charge of refugee protection in the Caribbean. It's a pretty small unit (3 people) so when two of them were called up to serve in a multi-agency UN mission to Haiti, a lot of US work was left undone. Because of this, I was asked to work full-time with UNHCR for the next two months. I'll have an opportunity to work on real refugee cases, do country of origin research and lots of other things that make it pretty cool to come in every morning. It's really a shame that it took a horrible natural disaster to hand me this opportunity, but hopefully I'm doing my part in helping indirectly.
As a side note, I'm still in charge of processing certain Haiti-related news for internal UNHCR distribution: I've made some rockin' excel spreadsheets/charts that have impressed my colleagues and some State Dept. people too. Thanks for the education Deer Canyon Elementary!