in response to samantha.

Samantha wrote: Hi my name is Samii and i'm in grade 6. I'm doing a speech on MSF. I think the stuff you do is amazing. You're helping people who really need you.

Samantha wrote: Hi my name is Samii and i'm in grade 6. I'm doing a speech on MSF. I think the stuff you do is amazing. You're helping people who really need you. What could I say to help my classmates understand what MSF is really all about? We had people from MSF come to Kenora, in the fall. My mum told me about the presentation that they gave and i've read through the blogs and the website. Is there something that you would like to say that I could pass onto my classmates in my speech?[31/03 13:08:37]


first, let me apologize for taking so long to write to you. i don't

have much chance to use email here in rural sudan. i hope i am not too


i am impressed that you are going to give a speech about médecins sans

frontières (MSF). it shows that you already know more about the world than i did in grade 6.

what is msf all about? so many things. perhaps it is best to start at

the beginning and explain where we are from. we were started about 35

years ago by a group of doctors and journalists, some of whom were first

working for the red cross in nigeria, a country in africa, others who

were working in bangladesh. up until this point, the red cross was one

of the only organizations that provided medicines and help to the worlds

poorest people.

because the red cross wanted to work in as many places as possible and

reach as many patients as they could, they thought it was best to not

speak about political things. they were afraid that the governments of

the countries where they worked would be angry, or make them leave. they believed that this silence was in important part of being neutral,

of not taking sides.

the people who started msf did not agree. they knew that the famine in nigeria was caused not by the weather, but by a war. they also believed

that the world needed to know, so that other countries could work towards a solution for the real problem. the nigerian people who were starving because of the war could not tell their own story. they were too poor, and too hungry. most of them had left their homes. the doctors and journalists who started msf in 1971 believed that in addition to giving medical assistance, they had a responsibility to say what they had seen, that they must speak for people who had no voice.

there are many more parts to the story, but for me, this is the most

important. it is where we get our name from. "sans frontières".

"without borders". we work all over the world, providing care for

people who otherwise would be forgotten. it is to these people that we

feel our responsibility lies.  we think about borders mostly when they

get in our way.

i have visited a few countries with msf. i went to bolivia where there

is an msf project to treat a disease called chagas. i hadn't heard of

it either, don't worry. but several million (million!) people in south

america are sick with it. the problem is that is the poorest, the

people with no way to get medicines, and no way to tell their story. the ones with no voice. the first day i arrived i had to cross a river

on a horse to get to one family, to teach them how to avoid it. it took

most of the day. for just one family. i visited some places in africa

where many people are infected with hiv, and most are so scared they

don't want to know if they are. there msf teaches them, tests them, and

gives them medicines. they get stronger, not just from the pills, but

also with the knowledge that hiv can be treated and prevented. they

tell two people, who tell two more, who tell two more.

the other day, in sudan, hot hot sudan, we did a clinic far away, under

a tree. people came from all around, some even on donkey. there were

no schools nearby, and little water. some mothers had six children or

more, and some of these were very thin. because we had many patients

with measles in the last month, it had been a long time since we had

been back to this area. the patients were happy to see us. one of the

mothers said, "we were afraid that you were not going to come back. we have no government, and no schools. without this, we have nothing."

i am not sure if i have done a good job of explaining what msf is about. it is about all of the things above, but it is about this too, this email, this blog, and your speech to your class. it is about a greater understanding of the world, and a greater respect for people no matter where they live. a recognition that people who suffer from borders the most don't get a chance to draw them.

maybe one day, some of the people in your class will work for msf, or an

organization like them.  it's not easy work. one thing it has taught

me, the more i know about the world, even the hard parts, the more i am

able to love it.

i hope you have learned something about msf, and maybe even about

abyei. the next time i visit the tree, i will tell that woman that a

girl in canada, samantha from kenora, all the way around the world, is

telling her class about sudan. i think it will make them feel less alone.

thanks, samii. good night.