Thursday, June 21, 2007

Help out a Refugee. Help out a Dr.

It seems I missed World Refugee Day yesterday. I wonder how many refugees missed it too? Or was it all just parties and celebrations there in the camps across the world?

No, but it is a valid issue to recognise. And I have often considered it to be the direction I would head in once the dilemma of HIV has exhausted me.

I am not medical or doctor-material, so I don’t think I will stick in this particular game forever. PLUS, I like to hold onto that na├»ve hope that HIV will be conquered in my lifetime, perhaps even before I settle down with a hubby and flock of kids of my own.

Speaking of this game… I was told some very bizarre piece of information last night. Apparently to be a doctor for MSF (Doctors Without Borders) requires you to sign a 6 month very-binding contract, receive only a basic living allowance, not be certain of your living environment (anything from a house to a tent, food daily to maybe not – in the one case in Zimbabwe) and to not be able to choose who you travel with.

While I think I can understand where they are coming from on some of these regulations, one would think that their employees….sorry, scratch that, volunteers rather… should be allowed any small amount of respite from their sudden stressful new environments. Like at least being able to have a doctor friend with them. Doctors' jobs are stressful enough in sweet first world situations. Now they are in but-hectic resource-less under-developed new planets. That can be just a little taxing on one's self.

Let alone being paid a minor-to-normal salary for doing such work! Hell, I ain’t even skilled and I earn enough to keep myself more than alive and nearly living the life to which I enjoy being accustomed. Basically... I earn enough to pay tax. So, about this pay, or possible lack thereof, does MSF not receive a fair amount of money, from some pretty big guys? Which they could use to pay their DOCTORS? It’s not like I am talking about bookkeepers, or random stats players, or simple office entertainment (read: Champs Heathen).

I always have repected this organisation and what they stand for, to incredible degrees. I know where they started out from. People donating their skills. But the organisation has grown to massive heights, and with this comes funding and new perspectives. Entice doctors across the world to help out with basic health care for a few months to a few years of their early or late careers. “Entice” being the operative word there.

I could be wrong. I apparently have some research to do later. So far all of this is hearsay, from one very respected mate.

She was keen to work for MSF or a similar reputable charity when she finally became qualified. Had all the skills, had the enthusiasm of newness, had the lack of ties that comes with youth, and had to work through too much red tape & possible inhospitable living to eventually end up where she is so desperately needed.

Should our international charities not be doing all they should to harness such people and such incredible and vital skills?

Something does not seem right here.

But now I must be off to hug a refugee in belated celebrations.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps the reason they do not want to pay is to reserve the funds for other purposes like to get more vaccination, pills for the patients? Entice.. hmm... Give the min basic allowances where pple can survive on, but not too much that they can buy Prada. at least can help the organisation filter out those who are in it for adventure or "look good" on resume kinda of mentality. The Prada sometimes doesn't matter after a while in the mission.

Anonymous said...

however, it's really great to see that over your side of the world, pple can still be bothered with World Refugees Day and blogging abt it... i wish my side would be like yours too..

Champagne Heathen said...

Anon - a very valid point! That the money does need to be distributed and budgeted for properly. Especially aid money requires a great deal of focus on prioritising.

It is as you say - a balance between people being able to survive and living the cushy life in the name of a charity. It is a VERY difficult balance and one that is often not reached...there's a part my post yesterday where I bitch about the "admin fees" that some NGO bosses offer themselves & their employees.

MSF is one of the top organisations in the world, and that is why I am shocked that they do not have a better "package" to offer to possible qualified doctors. My mate, as I am sure are SOME other new docs, was not looking for an equivalent salary of what she earns now. She was looking to use her skills in a meaningful way. And she should be DECENTLY compensated.

I do not think that their offer, as she described it, was decent.

There is so much money in this aid game, that surely you can find the cash to "entice" new docs hoping for six months of intense field work for little pay, but at least SOME pay.

And yes, I completely agree with you that all these orgs that use volunteers need very good filtering systems to sort out the serious candidates from the ones that are simply looking for a holiday or a little paid-for adventure to tell their kids about. I don't think wages should feature highly in this filtering system, however.

As for Refugee Day - which is what I had intended to blog about, and obviously slipped up on, not a word on it in my world. I came across it in an article of a Reuters site. So in my Reading World it featured, that was about it. Sad really. Fcking sad.