Lucia has something to say

Friday, February 23, 2007

Medecins Sans Frontieres / Doctors Without Borders

In Nairobi and on my way home via Amsterdam and Detroit...

In my row on the plane, there was a young woman, an Indian doctor trained at Johns Hopkins, headed to the Congo to work for 8 months with Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders). She had a big, heavy pack, the official bag of the organization, with a required ID sticker on the outside and MSF tape hanging off the side. She said it contained everything she might need, including a tarp that could be used as a tent. She had an ID badge too, which she was required to wear. “It’s awkward,” she said, “People always ask me if I can help them in airport stores because they think I work there.” We laughed. I really liked this woman. She had a great personality and sense of humor, and I know she’ll do well when she’s picked up and taken 300 km to the site where she’s going. There are already 2 Canadians, 2 Italians, and some other volunteers there. She said they desperately need a hospital, so they are working to petition the government.

Medecins Sans Frontieres always impresses me. They manage to use every dollar well. They get right to the heart of the problem and fill in gaps left my other NGOs. They were the first ones on site when the tsunami happened, and since there was other health care arriving, they focused on what was lacking, psychological assistance for survivors.

In the crowded transfer line at the Nairobi airport, where people kept trying to push in, from my place smashed between the Mexican businessman in front of me, the Muslim woman in black in back, and the African man with the cross around his neck who continually tried to cut the queue, I couldn’t help advocating for this woman, since her connection was tight and I wanted her to be able to get there to do this great MSF work.


Blogger Heather Plett said...

Over so soon? Aw. I've really been enjoying really the tales of your travels. I'm sorry to see them end. But I'm sure you still have lots of stories to tell.

Yes, I'm quite impressed with MSF too. Lately I've heard great things about Engineers without Borders too.

9:45 AM  
Blogger Heather Plett said...

oops - that's supposed to say "reading the tales of your travels".

9:46 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Lucia, I haven't been by lately and I clearly have some catching up to do over here! So many cool posts on Africa. Ironically, I also have a post up about my visit to Tanzania ten years ago, in case you're interested.

You are quite the world traveller.

5:22 PM  
Blogger KC said...


I trained at Hopkins too. Now, I'm even prouder.

safe travels.

7:09 PM  
Blogger meno said...

I love how each of your posts takes me, just for that moment, and transfers me to where you are.

You are awesome.

I am a big fan, and supporter of MSF.

7:57 PM  
Blogger thailandchani said...

I've always been a supporter of MSF, too. They do great work. The guy who did surgery on my right eye, Dr. Michael Schermer from Sacramento, goes to Vietnam once a year and does free microsurgery. To me, that is what being a doctor is all about.



9:40 PM  
Blogger Lynnea said...

People amaze me. You and she.

1:03 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hi Lucia,
I'm in a catching up mode since work has just sapped all of my time and my brain for the last weeks. This series was just ideal for my caffeine-induced clarity this Sunday morning.

Your posts read so well, and the photos evoke a sense of place.

There are two things that I especially like about this series. It is so refreshing to read travel tales that do not go into the Lonely Planet "aren't I clever" style. Your posts let the people stand on their own. You are clearly an outsider and are clearly respectful.

The other thing I like is this: it inspires me to see posts that serve a higher purpose. As much as I love blogging, I grow weary of the self-centered quality of so many of them.

Keep up the great work.

6:25 AM  
Blogger QT said...

I happen to have clients who participate in MSF by funding a free eye clinic for children in India. They are very passionate about it and I know they do great things.

Isn't it nice when you meet someone worthwhile when traveling?

6:07 PM  

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