I was born in Paris in 1966. At that time, in France, if you didn't want to do 12 months of military service you could do two or three years' work in another country, being a teacher, for example. So that's what my parents did - we moved to Madagascar and lived there until I was three. So I started travelling young, even though I can't remember much of Madagascar. NEW HORIZONS I studied business and administration in Washington DC, in the United States, and then went back to Paris and worked exporting food to the Caribbean and places like that. After almost 10 years I no longer found my job satisfying and I quit in 1995. I've always sailed and friends asked me to join their business delivering boats across the Atlantic Ocean. After a year going back and forth from the Caribbean, I started looking for other job options. But I knew I didn't want to go back into the corporate world. TWIST OF FATE I had some friends working for MSF (Medecins Sans Frontieres) so I went to see them. I wasn't motivated as much by charity work as by wanting to travel. I had no idea MSF would hire people other than doctors and nurses but I discovered that 40 per cent of the staff at MSF are not medical people, they are administrators and logisticians: people who make things possible for the doctors to save lives. My experience at an import/export company was useful. At MSF, we work a lot with all the issues of transiting goods from one place to another. When doctors are on site, the logistics are huge. We need to be able to load a plane within two days and take it to wherever it is needed. MISSION STATEMENT Two weeks (after that visit), MSF called me and I was sent on my first mission - to Uganda. I was based in the capital (Kampala), importing goods and sending them to the mission in the field. It was just after the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and we knew MSF would be kicked out of that country, so we were trying to save materials there and bring them to Uganda. But the biggest issue was sleeping sickness (a tropical disease spread by the tsetse fly) in the north of Uganda - an issue that had been going on for 20 years. The challenge was to convince infected (patients) to stay with us and not go home early. WORKING ON PEANUTS That first mission was the most satisfying. Soon after they sent me to the Ugandan border with Sudan, where we were charged with opening a new mission. The local authority gave us a peanut field to use as our dispensary. We began with nothing: there was just one road. We had five expats. (In the end), my team numbered 40 - I had a lot of Ugandan colleagues, including drivers, carpenters. You are in touch with the local authorities (all the time while) dealing with people and slowly building the project so that it's accepted locally. We built strong friendships with expatriates and locals. You spend nine months with them and yet some I've never seen again. There was no Facebook back then. HOMETOWN BLUES Between missions, I always had a break. I went home, saw my friends, went sailing and was often disappointed with everyone around me. I learned very quickly that it was not a good thing to try to share everything I was experiencing because it was impossible for them to understand. Fair enough. The things we experienced as a small team living in a remote place and dealing with crazy situations cannot be shared with the fellow you knew back home since you were four years old. After three hours, they don't want to talk about it anymore. IN THE EYE OF THE TIGER My next mission was Sri Lanka, where I was initially based in Colombo. It was 1996 and the situation was very bad between the Tamils and the non-Tamils. We then went to the north of the country, where the war was happening. We were working in refugee camps, some of which were 20 years old because the war had been going on for so long. Some people had been born in the camps and moved from one to another. Then I went to South Ossetia, in Georgia, where we set up a tuberculosis programme in the Caucasus Mountains. It was a tense situation. Tuberculosis was a big issue but so was the fact water was lacking, hygiene was lacking and it's very cold in winter. WIND IN MY SAILS I might have continued in that field but a sailing trip came up. We delivered a boat from France to Miami and I went on to New York, to meet some MSF friends I knew from the Sri Lanka mission. They offered me a job in the human resources department, hiring logisticians. I stayed about nine months and then they asked me to start a project touring MSF exhibitions, something I'd already had some experience of with MSF in Paris. THE EXHIBITIONIST We organised a big exhibition in New York and Los Angeles - across five venues - called "A Refugee Camp in the City". It was very interactive and recreated a refugee camp in the heart of places like Manhattan and the Bronx. People loved it. Since then, the exhibitions have evolved, just as MSF has evolved. In the 1980s, MSF was focused on taking care of massive populations displaced by war but, after 2000, it began a lot of programmes to take care of populations in cities. Today, sadly, we have lots of refugees, again. BACK TO REALITY These days I'm based in Paris. I have a very normal life - I have a wife and three kids. I had no idea in 1995 that 20 years later I would still be with the MSF. I was motivated by the excitement of the job, meeting people from different places and cultures, sharing experiences and learning much more than I was able to give back. Nicolas Beaudouin was in Hong Kong with MSF's "Emergency Assignment" exhibition, which features a series of tents in which visitors can experience emergency settings, including an Ebola treatment room. The interactive event is being held in venues across Hong Kong until November 21. For details, go to msf.hk/ea30 or call 2959 4249. Want more articles like this? 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