Doctors Without Borders is an incredible organization that works tirelessly around the world responding to medical emergencies and saving lives. As an international medical organization whose members give generously of themselves to meet the needs of those in catastrophic circumstances, Doctors without Borders has the almost universal support and respect of the world community, including our own American citizenry. As much as we may admire the work done by Doctors Without Borders, it is unlikely that we have considered how we, as non-medical people, might play an active role in the outstanding relief work done by this organization.
Doctors Without Borders: the Back Story. Doctors without Borders is an international medical humanitarian organization that helps to extend medical care to those in most critical need around the world. Doctors without Borders has been in existence now for more than 35 years and has established section offices in 19 different countries. It has invested its time and money well and now is one of the most adaptable medical groups among international first responders to an emergency situation. Perhaps best of all this organization is a private, non-profit group that is apolitical in its approach to helping human beings in medical distress. To maintain their independence from political pressure, 89% of the funding that supports Doctors without Borders comes from private donors not from governments. This allows Doctors without Borders to determine where it will serve on the basis of need, not politics.
Over the years, Doctors without Borders staffers have designed and produced medical emergency kits to be used in cases of catastrophic medical need. They have created kits specially designed to meet the variety of situations they are most likely to encounter and include things like all the materials for a full operation room or the special materials needed to deal immediately with things like dysentery, malnutrition and an endangered water supply. The kits have been built around expected scenarios and keep in mind the geography and special needs of special populations. The ready availability of these kits allows Doctors without Borders the chance to strike back when disaster strikes a community or a nation.
Besides its direct work in the field, Doctors without Borders also functions as an advocacy group working internationally to make drugs and medical supplies available to all people regardless of where they live, their religion, race or means with which to pay.
Every year Doctors without Borders Staff respond to international health needs, often in as many as 70 countries scattered around the globe. More than 3,000 Doctors without Borders Staff people are involved in these efforts.
The Rest of the Story. The goal of Doctors without Borders is obviously to provide needy people with quality medical care regardless of political affiliation. Our image of a Doctors without Borders volunteer is often the picture of a man or woman in a starched white medical coat, wearing a stethoscope or carrying a black medical bag. More active images might reveal doctor types applying a dressing to a wound, inoculating a small child or bending over an emaciated form offering nourishment and healing expertise.
All of these images, in their own way, do demonstrate the field work of Doctors without Borders. But these images are by no means the whole story. The truth is that out of every three members of Doctors without Borders, one person is not medically trained. This is because Doctors without Borders recognizes the fact that to function they need lots of collateral assistance and assistants. A group of doctors turned loose in the midst of a medical catastrophe can do good things for sure, but with the help of support people they can do so much more.
For this reason Doctors without Borders includes many dedicated non medical workers who handle administration, logistics,finances and management. There are members of the Doctors without Borders team who do the non medical but still important daily tasks that make it possible for the medical staff people to do their more specialized task of healing. Doctors without Borders needs people to do the considerable physical work of helping to dig wells and rehab hospitals to make them suitable for care. There is a need for staffers who can do the daily work of transporting staff, medicines and other medical supplies to areas of greatest need. There is even a need for people with negotiating skills to help with the process of setting up violence free zones where Doctors without Borders can tend to the sick and injured. People with planning, administrative, budgeting and other financial skills are also valued members of the Doctors without Borders team. You don’t need to be a Doctor or Nurse to serve with Doctors without Borders.
When Doctors without Borders has a mission the goal is to bring healing but the rest of the story includes the tremendous amount of support work that is done that makes it possible for the healing hands of Doctors without Borders to go to work.
How to Get Involved. As with any international aid organization there are a variety of ways that people can get involved in the ongoing mission of Doctors without Borders. Anyone can help simply by spreading the word of the good accomplished by Doctors without Borders. It is hard to imagine how much good is accomplished through positive public relations that begins at the grassroots level. It is also possible to help Doctors without Borders through fund raising and donations. Private funding is the life blood of Doctors without Borders.
Doctors without Borders does recruit volunteers who are willing to work in the home offices providing clerical support for those who are working in the field . But perhaps the most exciting way in which you can help Doctors without Borders is to become part of a field team actively working to meet the needs of real people in real trouble.
The basic requirements include the ability to be flexible, availability for from 6-12 months though a preference is given to those who can be available for from 9-12 months , language skills are desirable, previous oversease experience working in your particular field is also valuable. Not every person who wants to help Doctors without Borders can simply sign on, but there are many aspects of the Doctor without Borders program that require the technical assistance of non-medical personnel who are professionals in their own area of expertise, like finances, logistics, water supply and sanitation.
You can be part of the Doctors without Borders organization even though you have no medical training. If this is something you have only fantasized about, know that the dream can become a reality and your real skills can help those in dire medical emergencies throughout the world.
And you can be more proactive than simply writing a check. Even with no medical training you can be an on site worker on behalf of Doctors Without Borders. You can put your special skills and abilities to work for a cause that you perhaps thought was beyond your reach to personally influence.