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Doctors Without Borders - A Global Volunteer Organization Helping People In Crisis Regions

One of the subjects I am going to research in the near future is combining travel with volunteer opportunities all over the world. Volunteering is a great way of exploring different cultures while making a positive contribution to important causes.

Doctors Without Borders first caught my attention during the Tsunami Crisis. It is an organization that provides important medical relief to people in disaster-stricken areas. I felt compelled to find out more about this organiz...

Volunteering, non-profit organizations

One of the subjects I am going to research in the near future is combining travel with volunteer opportunities all over the world. Volunteering is a great way of exploring different cultures while making a positive contribution to important causes.

Doctors Without Borders first caught my attention during the Tsunami Crisis. It is an organization that provides important medical relief to people in disaster-stricken areas. I felt compelled to find out more about this organization, about its philosophies and its recent missions. Here is my interview with Isabelle Jeanson, National Press Officer Toronto with Doctors Without Borders.

1. Please tell us about Médécins Sans Frontières / Doctors without Borders. What type of organization is it? What philosophy s it based on?

We are the world's leading independent international medical relief organization.
Médecins Sans Frontières offers assistance to populations in distress, to victims of natural or man-made disasters and to victims of armed conflict, without discrimination and irrespective of race, religion, creed or political affiliation. We also observe neutrality and impartiality in the name of universal medical ethics and the right to humanitarian assistance.

2. Please tell us about the history of Doctors with Borders. Who founded the organization? How has it evolved since its inception?

MSF was originally founded in France in 1971 by a group of doctors and medical journalists who were concerned with the plight of populations in emergency situations. Since 1971, MSF has grown into 5 European operational sections, and 13 partner sections around the world. The Canadian office was founded in 1991, by a few Canadian doctors who came back to Canada from mission, and realized there was a need for an MSF presence in Canada.

3. How is your organization funded?

We are mostly funded by donations from the public (80%) and the rest from governments and foundations (20%).

4. Who can volunteer with Doctors without Borders? How many volunteers are there world-wide? Please tell us about the volunteer recruitment process.

Doctors, nurses, midwives, logisticians, project coordinators, financial coordinators, mental health specialists, social workers, and many other professionals can volunteer with Doctors without Borders. There are over 2000 volunteers working for MSF in the field, and hundreds more who work in offices around the world.

People who are interested should first visit our website: www.msf.ca, that explains in detail what we look for in our candidates. Once an interested candidate has applied (either on-line or by mail), their application is revised by a recruitment officer. If their application is relevant to what we look for, they will be invited to an interview. If the interview is successful, the candidate will be offered pre-departure training prior to going on mission. The selection of their mission is based on the candidate's skills which are matched to the needs of the field. The time needed to find the right mission for the right person can happen anywhere from a few weeks to several months.

5. Please comment on some of the risks and dangers that the volunteers face.

Security is of the outmost concern for MSF, for all of its volunteers and national staff. A security briefing is given to the volunteer prior to going on mission, and once they arrive at their mission. A volunteer is never forced to go on mission if they are concerned about their security. The volunteer is ultimately responsible for his or her security once they are on mission, however MSF provides excellent security protocols and systems to minimize the risk. If a volunteer is in a mission which becomes too insecure, he/she will be evacuated with his or her team to a secure environment.

6. What are the living conditions for the volunteers?

Volunteers will often live in a house shared by other international MSF volunteers. Housing, food, transportation and all other amenities are covered by MSF. Volunteers also receive a stipend as pocket money.

7. What critical missions has your organization been involved in recently?

Currently we are involved in a famine crisis in Niger; in the conflict in Darfur, West Sudan; in conflict areas in Democratic Republic of Congo; in mental health projects in Asia; in the tsunami relief in South-East Asia; and we offer AIDS treatment projects in dozens of countries around the world, to name only a few. MSF is currently working in over 70 countries around the world and manages hundreds of projects.

8. MSF also speaks out to end suffering and provides public education and informational events. Please tell us more about that.

Other than providing medical relief to populations in distress, MSF also has a mandate to speak-out or do "témoignage". This basically means that we speak out against the atrocities or injustices that we witness in the field, to raise international public awareness about an issue that is otherwise forgotten or unknown by the world. We do this by speaking at public events, or giving interviews in the media or by publishing reports.

9. Please comment specifically on the situation now in South Asia, more than 6 months after the Tsunami Disaster.

We are currently still active in India and Indonesia, providing mental health counseling to the victims of the tsunami and basic health care.

10. Please tell us about the different ways of making a contribution to Doctors without Borders.

People can give to MSF through a variety of venues:

Through Partners Without Borders, our monthly giving program ;
By internet through our secure online giving form ;
By fax or mail, in response to our annual campaign, or our special or emergency appeals ;
By phone - we may call you, or you can contact us toll-free at 1-800-982-7903 ;
Through donations of publicly traded securities ;
By leaving a contribution to MSF in your will ;
By hosting or organizing a special event to benefit MSF ;
By making a gift in honour of a birthday, anniversary, marriage or graduation of a friend or family member ;
By making a gift in memory of a loved one who has passed on ;
At work through matching gift programs

Thank you, Isabelle, for providing further information about your organization and the important missions and activities you are involved in. We wish you the best of luck in your humanitarian efforts.

For the entire story including photos please visit http://www.travelandtransitions.com/interviews/doctors_without_borders.htm

 

Dorotheenhütte: Hidden Gem Of The Black Forest

Germany’s Black Forest hides many delightful secrets amid its thick foliage. In this land of fairytales and half-timbered houses lies a little glass factory, practicing the methods of a time long past. Located in the town of Wolfach, the Dorotheenhütte Glass Museum brings the traditions of yesterday alive for today’s visitors.

Proudly known as the ‘Black Forest’s only hand-blown glass factory’, Dorotheenhütte walks its guests through 2,000 years of glass history. The mus...

Germany, Europe, travel, Black Forest, travel writing, European travel

Germany’s Black Forest hides many delightful secrets amid its thick foliage. In this land of fairytales and half-timbered houses lies a little glass factory, practicing the methods of a time long past. Located in the town of Wolfach, the Dorotheenhütte Glass Museum brings the traditions of yesterday alive for today’s visitors.

Proudly known as the ‘Black Forest’s only hand-blown glass factory’, Dorotheenhütte walks its guests through 2,000 years of glass history. The museum section of the complex shows how the art of glass-making has evolved over the years as well as displays tool and mold artifacts from long ago. Masters can be observed creating and grinding delicate crystal stemware by hand - each cut a carefully calculated combination of angle and pressure.

Dorotheenhütte also gives their visitors the opportunity to try their hand at glass blowing – fascinating and fun when considering one rarely gets the invitation to ‘touch’ and ‘try it out’ when fragile objects are concerned. Standing near the 2,642 degree inferno of fire and molten glass leaves one uncomfortably warm, yet it develops a sense of awe for the master who endures this heat for his love of the art. Take a deep breath and blow with all your might as a tiny bubble forms in the glowing shapeless mass at the other end of a long metal tube. The master coaxes for more air, more pressure, more strength as your cheeks start to tingle and your face turns bright red. You get a very short break as you pick out different color chips for the blob that will eventually become a shapely vase.

The master has you blow into the tube again as he twists and shapes the vase then flings it almost madly through the air as you wonder how close he’s getting to the floor and the crowd. The glass cools enough to cut it off the tube and the vase must cool longer before being handled. The glass blowing workshop is absolutely free – only pay a nominal fee if you want to take your work of art home with you (since the vase must cool first, this give you plenty of time to peruse the rest of the complex).

Dorotheenhütte’s ‘Glass Paradise’ is appropriately named as it is truly a heaven for shoppers. The room brilliantly sparkles as each overhead light, perfectly positioned, splashes bright reflections and color over everything. Shelves and display tables are stocked full of finished vases, such as those blown in the free workshop, sets of stemware of all shapes and shades, figurines, candleholders, hanging balls that shine like stained glass, and anything else imaginable for home décor. Glass Paradise’ leads into ‘Christmas Village’, full of enchanting seasonal ornaments and decorations throughout the entire year. Twinkling lights border the aisles of fluffy snow and delicate items that are practically bursting with holiday spirit. Whether spending a lot or a little, Dorotheenhütte’s experienced staff gently packs each find in protective paper to cushion its journey from Wolfach.

They also offer international shipping options for those who would rather have their purchases meet them at home. Finally, after a day of blowing glass and shopping, visitors can relax in Dorotheenhütte’s charming restaurant. Have a full meal of delicious German cuisine or simply a warm drink and a pastry to reenergize as you admire the traditional wood décor.

Dorotheenhütte is a one-of-a-kind experience in the Black Forest region of Germany. Although it seems to be hiding among the dark trees, it welcomes each person with its enthusiasm and talent for the beautiful art of glassmaking.

 

Plight Of The Polar Bears

With all of the buzz around Al Gore's Nobel Prize winning efforts, many are hoping the heightened awareness of global warming will turn some attention to the plight of the polar bears. It would be utterly heartbreaking if this incredible predator was relegated to zoos or worse, especially after hundreds of years of adaptation to the hostile Arctic environment. I was once lucky enough to see a family of bears in the wild in the high arctic, a mother and two cubs - it was a pow...

polar bear trips, eco tourism, environment, global warming, green, polar bears

With all of the buzz around Al Gore's Nobel Prize winning efforts, many are hoping the heightened awareness of global warming will turn some attention to the plight of the polar bears. It would be utterly heartbreaking if this incredible predator was relegated to zoos or worse, especially after hundreds of years of adaptation to the hostile Arctic environment. I was once lucky enough to see a family of bears in the wild in the high arctic, a mother and two cubs - it was a powerfully moving site, considering this wasn't a refuge but actually ice flows viewed from a Russian Icebreaker. What a great many people were not aware of until recently is that polar bears need the sea ice to freeze over. This gives the polar bears ideal hunting grounds for the seals that build dens and breathing holes in on the floes. Polar bears are classified as marine mammals and are surprisingly deficient in skills for catching prey on land.

There have been several reports of polar bear migrating into the northern boreal forests of Alaska and mating with grizzly bears, resulting in a hybrid bear: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grizzly%E2%80%93polar_bear_hybrid . While this phenomenon is not entirely new, the frequency of the polar bear's forays into southern lands is bound to increase. A bear has gotta do what it's gotta do, afterall. Biologists fear the interbreeding could dilute some of the polar bears greatest (and least understood) adaptations, such as the ability to navigate incredible distances in a dynamic environment with few landmarks, their aquatic skills and the instinct to catch seals under sea ice.

Arctic studies have shown that over the years, the sea ice grows and recedes with somewhat normal consistency but the last few years have shown a massive recession, along with the retreat of hundreds of Arctic glaciers. Call it global warming or whatever you like, but I think the time to start "thinking green" is now—if nothing else, so the great white north stays north. We may never encounter the polar bear in our normal lives and very few people will get to visit them, but that's exactly why we need to act now - to keep those wild places wild.

Writing and/or reading an article about polar bears isn't going to do much good without a soliciting a reaction. With that in mind, here are A Few Resources to Help Our Polar Pals in the Arctic...

Update on Polar Bear Status: From the Humane Society: http://www.hsus.org/marine_mammals/a_closer_look_at_marine_mammals/polar_bears/saving_acts_for_the_polar.html

Track Real Polar Bears: From the WWF http://www.panda.org/about_wwf/where_we_work/europe/what_we_do/arctic/polar_bear/index.cfm

Visit Polar Bears in Their Own Habitat: From Natural Habitat Adventures
http://www.nathab.com/north

Other Actions You Can Take: From Defenders of Wildlife
http://www.defenders.org/programs_and_policy/wildlife_conservation/imperiled_species/polar_bear/index.php

Aside from the resources above, the best thing you can do for polar bears is to reduce the effect your lifestyle has on global warming. Whether that means taking a bike to work or school, installing solar panels on your home, or just turning out the lights when you leave a room - every little bit helps.




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