Ten things I love about MSF – Number 10

This is a series of posts “10 things I love about MSF” why I am supporting them and why I think you should too although they are in no particular order…

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I’ve been thinking of what number 10 could be, So my final item is this series is more of a thank you to MSF, I loved that they changed my life.

I remember the first time I heard about MSF, I was at uni in Edinburgh and lived in a house with 10 vegetarians who mostly did arty creative work, worked with the disadvantaged. They dumpster dived, recycled, and campaigned and helped people. one of the girls had already traveled the world and volunteered in orphanages. All the nice rubbed off a bit and I wanted to see what I could do to fit in with these utterly decent human beings so I was googling volunteering and science, and laboratory and health to see if there was a “fit” for me when I came across MSF. I read all about them and the requirements to work with them and was gutted that they require 5 years experience and actual qualifications, when I was basically a 4th year, drunken, unqualified muppet!


My dreams slashed I forgot about MSF, until a lucky opportunity took me to Thailand with AusAid Australian Volunteers International. At this point I had worked in labs for a few years, had a PhD and after one year in Thailand I had to think about what comes next, and that’s when I remembered MSF again. I stressed over my application, my friends helped me sound like a rounded individual on my CV and I landed an interview. And then the job, although I was warned placements could take months.

Swazi family photo 😉

A month later I was off to Swaziland, A country I had to look up on the map and at least one friend thought I was joking. I joined the MSF family. I made friends with amazing people from around the globe, who six years on I am still close to and look to for advice and support. On that first mission I learnt more in a few months than in any job previously. It was a steep learning curve to learn the MSF procedures, to learn a new job, to learn to manage staff, learn how to train others, to learn to work with culturally diverse teams, to manage feelings of frustration and homesickness. I always felt that I gained far more than I could give back.

last day MSF osh.JPG
Kyrgyzstan Lab team

My next missions were the same, I met more fantastic people, lived in countries I could never have dreamed I would live in and did work which felt as if I made a difference. I might only be a small contributor to bigger projects, but I had skills to apply in useful ways. The skills I learnt took me away from MSF where I have become even more specialized in laboratory systems but I only had that opportunity because of MSF

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Now even though I don’t work with MSF, I know many people who do and I guess ex-MSF staff still feel some connection via shared experiences even if we never worked together we can bond over supply chain dramas, idiosyncrasies of security or lack of cheese and wine. I admire the staff and the values of the organisation and I want to support them so they can continue to bring high caliber experts together to make the difference where it is needed.

So that is my final post in the series, my personal reason for loving MSF.




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