This profile originally appeared in the Winter 2017 issue of Field Notes, the MSF Canada newsletter.
Every year, hundreds of Canadians work overseas with Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), delivering front-line medical care as part of MSF’s lifesaving emergency programs. We aim to introduce you to some of them, such as Trish Newport, a longtime project coordinator who recently returned from working with Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
Role with MSF:
Most recent posting:
North Lebanon. Running primary healthcare and chronic-disease management clinics for Syrian refugees and vulnerable Lebanese.
What impact did you see MSF having?
Without MSF there, many people would not have access to free healthcare, especially for chronic disease. Medical care, particularly for chronic disease, is very expensive in Lebanon. By being able to access free care, it meant that Syrian refugees and vulnerable Lebanese were able to spend money on other things such as food and shelter.
What impressions did you take away from your experience?
The impact of the Syrian crisis made a huge impression on me. While you hear about it on a daily basis, it is different to see it first-hand. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians are living in canvas tents in northern Lebanon, waiting to be able to return home. I lived in a canvas tent in northern Canada for 10 years. It was by choice, and through the experience I gained tons of skills and became very self reliant. During that time I felt that the world was an open door, and that I had an exciting future ahead of me. During my time in Lebanon I often reflected on my privilege to choose to live in the tent, as opposed to the Syrian refugees I met who had no other choice than to be in their tents, with no clear future ahead of them.
What made you want to work for MSF?
In 1985, when I was 10 years old, I saw my first picture of a malnourished child. It was during the crisis in Ethiopia. That photo shattered my reality, and ever since then I wanted to work with MSF to understand how that child ended up in that state and how it could be prevented in the future.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone heading to the field with MSF for the first time?
I would tell them to take the time to listen to the national staff and the patients, and to understand the context. We can’t provide quality care if we don’t do these things.