Not long after graduating from college my sister, Sarah, who recently entered her 30s, found herself at a convent in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, helping the nuns run an orphanage. She wasn’t taking vows, but she was beginning, unbeknownst to her, a life path focused on service to others. She has spent the bulk of the past five years working for the Human Resources department for Doctors Without Borders (Medicins Sans Frontiers, MSF).
When I think of HR, I think of Toby from the show The Office. That was not my sister’s HR. She spent months working in Kurdistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and Haiti again, to name a few. These are not vacation destinations, and that’s in part what drew her to the work: the ability to go into Afghanistan to work with and learn from a culture that most folks will never get to experience. Her HR department is likely unlike those that you have worked with. One of her first assignments was to maintain a list of every employee’s location for MSF’s entire 120-person mission in South Sudan, in case they needed to evacuate the country. Every day, she would email or call to each field hospital to see who was moving where, so that if disaster struck and the entire team needed to leave the country quickly, they could. She was barely twenty-four.
This week, the Impact blog is showcasing those people in our lives who have made an impact on us, who have helped us arrive at where we are today, and who keep us motivated towards our goals in the future. If you want to share a story about that person in your life, join us on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, and post your story using the hashtag #BCLawImpact. Students from the Law Students Association (LSA) and the blog will be in the Yellow Room on Thursday at lunch with a BC Law backdrop and a dry-erase board so you can take a picture with a message thanking someone who has made an impact on you and post it. We will post some of our favorite pictures and messages on the blog, and they will be collected in a Tagboard.
My sister has been a large piece of that motivation for me. I asked her recently why she chose to work with MSF. While in Haiti that first time, as a fresh college grad, she had a health scare. She contracted what the doctors back in Boston initially thought was Meningitis, but turned out to just be malaria. A couple spinal taps later, the effects of which she still deals with, my sister was back on the road, now destined for her first mission with MSF. That experience, she said, opened her eyes to the importance of health care in what are, to Americans, the remote reaches of the world. To the folks who live there, it’s just home.
Realizing that she was fortunate to be able to fly out of Haiti and back to some of the best doctors in the world in Boston, she wanted to play a role in bringing much needed care to those who, without an organization like MSF, wouldn’t have a chance. When she told me this, I realized that I chose to pursue a career working with kids because I had a similarly eye-opening experience working at the Boys & Girls Club in South Boston, seeing kids who were not nearly as lucky as I was growing up. Knowing that my sister was serving others and making a living, while being extremely happy and fulfilled, gave me the courage to pursue a career serving kids like the ones I met. It’s a relief to have someone close to me who understands and can laugh about the idiosyncrasies of public interest organizations, while providing advice and support through the job search process.
These days, to the relief of our mother and father, Sarah works at MSF’s offices in New York City, coordinating missions across the world, and selecting – 10% make the cut – and training the staff who work directly in the missions. Thanks, sis, for keeping me focused on those who have not been as lucky as we have, and for leading the way down the path of service. It’s an honor to follow you.