Friends of MSF is a student society that supports the work of Médecins Sans Frontières . We recently spoke to Tara, the President of the society, to find out more about what it does and how you can get involved.

How long has your group been running?

4 years.

How many members does your group have?

We have 15 committee members and over 250 non-committee members.

How often does the group meet?

We have committee meetings every 2 weeks and 1-2 events per month.

Is there a cost to be a member?

There is no cost.

Please tell us about Doctors Without Borders and how your group supports this organisation?

Friends of MSF is a student society that supports the work of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders). MSF is an international humanitarian aid organisation that provides medical assistance to those in greatest need in more than 60 countries.

MSF follows the principles of neutrality, independence and impartiality. This means that MSF helps people in need irrespective of race, religion, ideology or political agendas.

Another important part of MSF’s work is speaking out about the situations faced by the populations that MSF is helping. By talking honestly about the realities and underlying causes of crises, MSF seeks to alleviate human suffering and reinforce human rights.

To be able to work independently, MSF raises most of its funding from private sources. It’s these private donations that keep MSF’s lifesaving work going – and so efforts by the Friends of MSF truly make a difference and help improve lives around the world. Friends of MSF supports MSF’s work by:

  • Raising awareness of MSF and humanitarian issues
  • Engaging students to consider working for organisations such as MSF
  • Raising funds for MSF
  • Being part of the Missing Maps Project

Give us an example of one of the group’s greatest achievements?

Our biggest academic achievement was getting more than 150 people to attend one of our talks and therefore lots of people were educated about MSF and their work, as well as about the Ebola Crisis. Our biggest fundraising success was the candy cane sale 2 years ago where we raised almost £500 for MSF. We also managed to map a large area of Iraq at our 15 hour Map-A-Thon. We were asked to do this by MSF HQ as they needed maps of this area for their mission.

What do you find rewarding about being a member of the group?

Personally I feel it is very rewarding as I am taking a lead part in organising lots of events and fundraisers. I think it’s very important to raise awareness about MSF and what they do, and also to encourage people from all fields to work with them in the future. I am able to do this by organising various speaker events.

Also, to maintain neutrality, MSF does not accept any government funds and receives all funds from private donors, so our fundraising work is very important in order to support them. We can also help spread awareness about the petitions for humanitarian law violations, unfair pricing of essential medicines and other worthy causes that MSF is campaigning for, and help get signatures to combat these.

Why would you encourage others to join?

It is an opportunity to fundraise for MSF and their various missions, including natural disasters, conflicts and disease outbreaks. People can be confident where the money is being spent as MSF is very transparent with their funding reports. People can also hear about first hand experiences from our Guest Speakers and become more aware about the humanitarian issues and healthcare issues around the world. People can get more information if they want to work for such organisations in the future and get realistic insights from our speakers about what this would entail.

Please tell us about any upcoming events for the group?

We are having a film screening and Guest Speaker on Thursday 12th November at 7pm in the Nuffield Lecture Theatre A. The film, ‘Ebola:Frontline’ is about an MSF’s doctor’s experience of the Ebola Crisis in Sierra Leone. Our Guest Speaker, Flowa Houldsworth, is a nurse and midwife working with MSF, who will speak about her first hand experiences of working in the biggest Ebola centre in Liberia.

We are also having a Mapping evening on Thursday 26th November to continue mapping Union state of South Sudan as part of the Southampton Missing Maps project.

Missing Maps Project is an open, collaborative initiative founded by MSF, the British Red Cross, the American Red Cross and the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT). The project involves volunteers mapping parts of the world most vulnerable to humanitarian crises; these maps can then be used by NGOs to carry out more efficient work in the field. Southampton Missing Maps is a collaboration between 5 Southampton societies Friends of MSF, British Red cross, UNICEF on campus, Engineers Without Borders and Cameroon Catalysts. Friends of MSF led the first mapping evening on 29th October with more than 40 people attending and mapping Union state of South Sudan.

The next event will be led by UNICEF on campus and Engineers Without Borders. We plan to take turns in leading the events and plan to have monthly mapping evenings.

We will also be having a candy cane delivery from the last week of November where we will be selling candy canes on campus and also selling cards and delivering candy canes in medical school lectures.