Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) earns respect and recognition around the world for travelling to the most dangerous and remote places on earth to save lives affected by war, natural disasters and other mishaps.
The doctors and other medical workers are the face of MSF, but without excellent organisation behind them - the 'logistics management' - missions could not be carried out.
Remi Carrier, executive director of MSF Hong Kong, has been managing logistics for the organisation for nearly 20 years. He talked to Young Post about MSF's mission and vision.
Carrier joined as a volunteer right after graduating from university. 'At that time I didn't want to start making money right away,' he says. 'I wanted to be useful, so I volunteered for a humanitarian organisation. I thought I couldn't join MSF as a non-medical person, but I found out there are positions in MSF that require no medical background, so I joined immediately.'
On his first mission, to Angola in 1993, Carrier learned how different life can be in different parts of the world. 'The experience you have in Angola and in Hong Kong are so different. The mindsets are entirely [different],' he says.
'When I was in Angola and was shown the way to my bedroom, I saw a bullet hole in the window. My first task was to move my bed to a spot that was least likely to be hit by a bullet. In Hong Kong, we place our bed according to advice from fung shui masters.'
The independence of MSF is what makes it so powerful. It relies 100 per cent on donations from the general public and does not have any political agenda. Its duty is to help people in need. 'We live in a very political world, but there is still space for an independent organisation like MSF,' Carrier says.
The confusion with politics often makes it difficult for MSF in a conflict area, such as a war zone, he says. 'Communicating with all parties, including political actors and the community, is the key to allowing our field workers to carry out operations. We need to let all parties understand that we are here to provide medical assistance and we are neutral on the conflicts; but this is easier said than done. In some armed conflict settings, MSF is being seen as playing a part in a Western political agenda.'
MSF also takes responsibility for letting victims' voices be heard. 'Our field workers work closely with the community. When the situation becomes corrupted, it is our duty to serve as a platform to tell the world,' Carrier says.
MSF always looks for volunteers, as well as donations. Carrier says the work is not fun, but meaningful. He calls for young people not to avoid joining because of a fear of going to risky places. 'New volunteers are always led by more experienced ones, and MSF has connections all around the world. There is always support, and nobody will be left alone,' he says.
MSF has won a Nobel Peace Prize, but Carrier says the organisation is not looking for awards - it is there to help. 'I know MSF cannot be everywhere, but I hope we will continue to stay independent and provide better services for the world.' To find out more about what it's like to work on a mission, visit the MSF 'Living in Conflict' truck exhibition, housed in a 12-metre container resembling an MSF mobile hospital. The truck will make stops around the city.
For details, visit www.livinginconflict.hk