“Doing the very best you can”: Doctors Without Borders

By Beth Foote

I’m covering the blog this week as Randy recovers from his recent whirlwind of school presentations. Randy will be back next week!

Recently, I was having a bad day at work. It was one of those terribly busy days when everything seemed to be taking twice as long to get done as it should have. So when my cell phone started buzzing on my desk, I glanced at the unfamiliar number on the caller ID and then looked back at my screen, letting the call go to voicemail.

I was curious, though; I looked up the area code and saw that it was from Kentucky. I don’t know anyone in Kentucky, but whoever called me from there had left me a message. Soon the curiosity was great enough that I took a break from the spreadsheet I was working on and called up my voicemail.

A woman’s friendly Southern-accented voice greeted me. “Hi, this is Mary Ann calling on behalf of Doctors Without Borders. We just really wanted to say thank you so much for joining our field monthly giving program and we wanted to say welcome to the team.” She went on to tell me that I would receive a welcome kit in the mail in a few weeks and that I would be invited to special events and conference calls where they would talk more about their work. She ended with, “We thank you so much for your commitment.”

You see, part of my 2013 resolution was to do more things that focused outside of myself and focused more on helping others. It’s very easy to get caught up in the day-to-day trials and tribulations of one’s own life–I felt like I needed to get out of my own head a little more and get some perspective, and to “pay it forward.” In addition to the work I already do with 2020 Vision Quest, I also decided to become a regular donor (albeit a small one) to Doctors Without Borders.

The concept of Doctors Without Borders (or Medecins Sans Frontieres, commonly shortened to MSF) completely floors me. Their mission is to provide medical aid “to those most in need regardless of their race, religion, or political affiliation,” to quote the website. They are a completely neutral humanitarian organization. They are not affiliated with any religious or political group. They purposely do not accept gifts from corporations that come into direct conflict with their mission, so as to retain their independent status. 90% of their gifts come from private donors.

Wherever there are epidemics, malnutrition, natural disasters, or those excluded from healthcare, MSF will most often be there too. They were in Thailand after the 2004 tsunami, Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, and Japan after the 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami. They have set up projects in the most dangerous and war-torn places in the world, such as South Sudan, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Syria. They help people who need it most, regardless of who has fought against whom.

In the current climate of religious and political divisiveness in this country (the US), I find it very refreshing and heartening to remember humanitarian organizations like this exist for the sole purpose of helping people in need simply because we’re all people together on this planet and it’s the right thing to do. Making the world a better place benefits us all.

Nick Lawson, MSF-USA’s Director of Field Human Resources said it best in a recent newsletter I received:

“I think medical professionals like to work with MSF because it takes them back to the fundamental essence of the medical act and the Hippocratic oath. They can use their skills to do excellent work that’s not about the HMO or the legal environment. It’s about doing the very best you can as a human being to benefit another human being. That’s the essence of MSF.”

Further demonstrating their commitment to their mission, MSF puts 86% of their donations back into their programs and services, with 12.7% going towards fundraising and just 1.3% going towards management and other general expenses. For me, these statistics feel like an assurance that a donation to them will be used to the most direct benefit possible of people in need.

It humbles me to think about the work of charity organizations, who help others with no expectation of compensation. It reminds me that enriching someone else’s life is a reward unto itself. It puts things into perspective and encourages me not to dwell too much on what I perceive as difficulties in my own life.

Perhaps, too, this perspective will give me courage to try things I might not have before. As the 2020 Vision Quest mission states: ”Achieve a vision beyond your sight.” Here’s to having the courage to try to make a difference!

For more information about Doctors Without Borders / Medecins Sans Frontieres, please visit their website: www.doctorswithoutborders.org

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