Laurie Bonnaud/MSF

Recruitment Zone Fall 2018: Are field workers volunteers?

Welcome to the Fall 2018 edition of our Recruitment Zone newsletter. Our front-line field staff deliver emergency medical care to people in need. They make sure that MSF continues to work according to our fundamental humanitarian values, and help us maintain our neutrality, impartiality and independence.

One of MSF’s core principles is volunteerism. In our charter, MSF is described as an “organization of volunteers.” That does not mean that our employees are not paid for their work. The base salary is $2,426.47 per month and is the same for all employees for the first 12 months in the field, regardless of position.

Instead, MSF recognizes that its field workers are voluntarily making a commitment to the people in precarious situations whom we seek to help — and they do so understanding the risks and the dangers of the work they are carrying out.

‘You really want to work for this organization’

Marisa Litster is an emergency and forensic nurse from North Saanich, BC. She has been working on the front lines of humanitarian emergencies with MSF since 2014.

“When I think of volunteerism, I think about how if I hadn’t become a part of MSF, I’m not sure what else I would have done,” she says. “There really wasn’t another organization that I identified with so closely, or that I agreed with on how they conducted their medical operations. So for me that’s how I can relate to volunteerism, because you really want to work for this organization, and it’s not for the money, and not for the salary because you can make more money working elsewhere.”

Litster says that working for MSF is difficult, but that seeing for herself the difference it makes in the lives of vulnerable people makes the sacrifices and challenges worthwhile. That perspective embodies the MSF spirit of volunteerism. “You feel the impact while you’re there, not just afterwards, or reflecting long term. You see it immediately,” she says.

“My first mission was in such an insecure context,” Litster says, “but seeing us have such an immense impact made me realize, okay, this is the reason. We’re going to take a certain inherent risk, and try to mitigate it as much as possible, but accept that there are certain risks to working in this environment.”

The salaries MSF offers also reflect our spirit of volunteerism. While we fully recognize the high level of professionalism of our field staff, remuneration is modest as a matter of principle, enabling us to maximize the impact of our actions in the field.