Thursday, August 10, 2006


MSF (aka Doctors Without Borders in the United States) was started in France in the 1970s. It is a multinational non-governmental organization (NGO) that does health-related relief work in war zones, after natural disasters, and in resource poor settings. It is committed to increasing access to essential medicines for infectious diseases in poor countries. Click here to learn more about MSF’s work.

MSF is currently divided into five separate Operational Centers (OCs) and 19 Sections. The OCs are in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain, and Holland. They run field operations in 80 countries around the world. The Sections recruit volunteers, raise money, and manage publicity. They do not do “operations” (plan and coordinate field missions).

The MSF/Doctors Without Borders United States Section opened an office in New York in 1990. The NYC office recruits American health care workers and logistics persononel for the OCs. They ask medical volunteers to commit for at least six months. Non-medical people have to commit for longer. Volunteers cannot request a specific post or geographic assignment. Click here to find out more about how to volunteer with MSF/Doctors Without Borders.

After an application and interview, an applicant may be “accepted into the volunteer pool.” Each week the Human Resources staff in New York reviews vacant mission posts from the OCs for possible matches with volunteers awaiting field assignment. If HR thinks you might be a potential match, they call you and ask if you are interested in the post. They usually have only scanty information about the project goals, work requirements, and work setting. On top of everything, they give you only a few days to decide if you want the post. If you accept, and the OC agrees that you meet the job requirements, you are assigned to the field.

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