Having attended a business school, worked in the corporate world and lived some chunk of my life in bountiful consumerism, my decision to forego the comfort of home to go on a mission with MSF has left a few perplexed. After the oohs and ahhs, I inevitably get the question “Why do you do it?” The short answer is, “because I want to make a difference.” The long one is in the lines below.
Let’s rewind to 2009. I was 24, a first-year finance undergrad, full of energy and naiveté. Montreal was IT. It was THE place to be. It was actually the only place I have ever known. As I was bathing in my stability, an offer of a 4-month internship in Paris broke my equilibrium. With shaking knees and a heart on the verge of exploding from excitement, I accepted the proposition. 4 months. Paris. On my own. Oh em gee. At 24, I was out of my comfort zone for the first time. Little did I know this would be the journey that started it all.
Being in a foreign country by myself, I first found it awfully isolating but soon built a certain level comfort in my own company. Time and distance gave me perspective. Void of my usual distractions, I was finally able to hear myself. I realized that, since I was a child, I had this inkling feeling I was meant to do something. Something bigger than me. Something I could not quite put my finger on.
For the next year or so, I went on a quiet quest to find my purpose. I read a lot, let myself be inspired by others and nurtured that growing spark. That spark became a flame that became a fire. That fire is my desire to make a difference, to contribute to making this world a better place (yes, I’m a cheeseball).
So in 2011, brushing aside many cynics’ opinions, I mustered the courage to quit my job, sold the little that I owned and, along with my then-boyfriend, booked a one-way ticket to Thailand. Equipped with enthusiasm, curiosity and a heart full of good intentions, I embarked on a life-changing adventure. I could tell you that it was rose and beautiful, that my experience was all-rewarding and that I had the time of my life. The truth is I worked my butt off, I was emotionally drained and on some days I just wanted to give up and go back home. But it was also in that same journey that I gained perspective, sharpened my awareness and realized it was in my power to make a difference.
I started volunteering as an English teacher at a children’s foundation in Northern Thailand. Several months later, I took on the role as the Assistant Project Coordinator. Before I knew it, one year turned into two. Two years of struggles and triumphs, two years of cries and laughter. Two years of fulfillment and meaningfulness. Two years that shaped my unrelenting trust in life. Two years that proved I had done the right thing in nurturing that spark.
I returned to Montreal and the business world in 2013, hoping I had quenched my “humanitarian thirst.” I was very glad to be back. It felt great to be surrounded by friends and family. Home was comforting for a little while. But by the end of the year, sure enough, that spark came back.
So here I am again with that flame and fire, carrying it through MSF, trying to make a difference in Central African Republic.