Every year, hundreds of Canadians work overseas with Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), delivering front-line medical care in most of the nearly 70 countries around the world where MSF carries out lifesaving emergency healthcare programs.
Name: Kim Parry
Hometown in Canada: Ottawa
Role/position with MSF: HR and Finance Administrator
Where was your most recent posting, and what work is MSF doing there?
I recently returned from the south-west of Haiti. After Hurricane Matthew passed through the area on October 4, 2016, MSF set up a project in a town called Baraderes, in the department of Nippes. It was a short-term project meant to deal with the direct aftermath of the hurricane. A lot of our work was aimed at preventing a cholera peak from happening in the area. Baraderes was devastated during the hurricane. The entire downtown was flooded. Houses were destroyed, crops washed away, roads were impassable. We worked to repair the town's water system, set up chlorination points at public water access points, and did distributions of water storage containers and chlorination tablets (and education on how to use them) to vulnerable households.
After speaking with local authorities and assessing needs for the area our team also built a two-tent, 16-bed Cholera Treatment Centre (CTC). As a medical organization, MSF is usually quite hands-on in activities. However, in this particular area the local Health Centre was working very well. There was no need for us to interfere with a functioning system. So in this case we did all the construction, helped reinforce the local medical staff's cholera treatment protocols with some training days, and directly handed over control of the CTC. By the time we closed the project on December 15, the Health Centre was treating cholera patients in the new tents.
What impact did you see MSF having?
Bringing back accessible safe drinking water quickly in the aftermath of the hurricane. Trainings provided to health care staff and the town's water management team to help improve their skills.
Please share one detail from your most recent posting that made an impression on you:
We had to use a lot of donkeys! Immediately after the hurricane, the roads were impassable by car and truck due to flooding, land slides, pot holes, rain, etc. The first few weeks we were there not even our Land Cruisers could get through (we were forced to bring in supplies by hellicopter and boat). We had to resort to other means for local travel needs, and used donkeys to travel on muddy roads. This allowed us to do medical and needs assessments into the more remote areas higher on the mountains. Eventually, the rains dried up and the roads were repaired enough that we could start using motorcycles, and then by the end we were able to get our vehicles through.
What was your background before joining MSF?
A mix of things. I've been a Teacher's Aid, worked with special needs children, worked in the fundraising sector, and in HR.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone heading to the field with MSF for the first time?
Bring treats! Work days are long and time off can be rare. Arriving to the project with some chocolate, cheese or good coffee to share is a quick way to lift everyone's spirits.