Recognized as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Nov 6, 2017)
Here are some of the reasons why Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) Canada was selected as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2018) and Greater Toronto's Top Employers (2018) :
- In addition to the organization's regular health benefits plan, MSF Canada offers employees a generous health spending account, ranging from $2,500 up to $5,000, and maintains in-house wellness programming
- Employees working at MSF Canada's head office receive 4 weeks of vacation to start, moving to 5 weeks after only 3 years on-the-job
- MSF Canada encourages ongoing employee development through tuition subsidies for courses related and indirectly related to an employees' current position, opportunities for formal mentoring and subsides for professional accreditation
Reducing suffering and saving lives at MSF Canada
Two decades ago, Tiffany Moore took on a freelance assignment that changed her life. At the time a graphic designer and arts administrator, Moore was designing a poster for a photographer who had recently been to Colombia to chronicle a humanitarian medical intervention by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). "I decided to change my career completely," says Moore. "I was looking for something more meaningful to do."
Starting as an office volunteer in 1998, Moore has since worked for the international non-profit medical relief organization in various capacities. Currently based in Toronto as MSF Canada's Human Resources Director, she has also helped the organization deliver front-line emergency care to people affected by crisis in Afghanistan, Siberia and South Sudan, among other places.
"Personally, I find it's incredibly meaningful work," says Moore. "Not many employers offer the chance to help save lives and reduce suffering for populations in danger in some of the most neglected crises in the world."
Moore's rich and varied career arc is not an unusual one at MSF. Career Manager Patrick McConnell had a background in international development, so when he got a job in MSF's fundraising department in 2009 he was thrilled. After two years in the office, staff can apply for a leave of absence to work in the field; since he started, McConnell has had two postings to the Congo and an assignment in Ivory Coast.
"Before I joined MSF, my first job was in an office outside of the city I was living in downtown Toronto, I had a miserable commute and I just dreaded going to the office," he says. "I have never had a day at MSF where I've not looked forward to coming in and doing my work."
Having worked in both MSF's Canadian offices and its field operations, McConnell has seen first-hand the organization's humanitarian impact. "Helping 60,000 kids receive vaccinations in Congo, a place where preventable diseases still kill thousands of people every year, was inspiring," he says.
There are also opportunities to learn and develop in the home offices. MSF Canada offers tuition subsidies for job-related courses, mentoring and coaching initiatives and subsidies for professional accreditation. And staff have a great deal of autonomy.
"There's a lot of space to try new ideas, learn things, work on projects that may not be your forte and really have a voice," Moore says. "Recently, in protest against attacks on our hospitals, such as the devastating bombing of Kunduz in Afghanistan, staff at MSF Canada developed the #NotATarget campaign that has since been adopted globally by other major humanitarian organizations."
Still, a job at MSF Canada isn't for everyone. "MSF demands a lot of you," says Moore. "If there's a big emergency, we all roll up our sleeves to do what it takes." Nor is it the organization for anyone for whom salary is the foremost concern. "We want people to come work with us because they want to make a difference -- they're motivated by what we do," she adds.
But MSF more than compensates for that fact with a robust benefits package. In addition to the enrichment subsidies and regular health benefits, the organization offers a generous vacation package and maintains in-house wellness programming and a health spending account of up to $5,000.
Then there are the incredible opportunities for travel and, McConnell and Moore agree, inspiring people to work with. "We're all kind of on the same team, so to speak," says McConnell. "Even if you're several degrees removed from work in the field, you feel that you're having an impact, no matter what your role in the organization."
Work locally, make an impact globally with MSF Canada
Every couple of months, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) runs orientation sessions to prepare international field workers heading out on their first assignments. During these sessions, workers have a chance to talk to former field workers and learn about the conditions in the field, about mental and physical preparation, and about how to implement MSF's principles in practice.
"Over the course of those two days, you see people really become inspired and further motivated to join us," says Recruitment Officer Karel Janssens. "It's an organization with a very strong culture, with a lot of self-reflection and with a very clear purpose. It just pulls people into it very easily."
Janssens has been with MSF since 2003, working in such places as sub-Saharan Africa, Haiti and Pakistan in different roles. Since 2014, he has been stationed in the Toronto office recruiting Canadian physicians, nurses and other personnel who work around the world for the humanitarian organization. "I come from a small town in Belgium," he says, "and I owe this organization a lot in terms of the people I've come across, the countries I've travelled through, the professional growth I've gone through."
But Janssens is not simply one of the rare lucky ones. In fact, anyone who works at MSF for two years is entitled to apply for leave of absence to work in the field. Since starting as an office volunteer in 1998, Tiffany Moore has worked in various capacities, helping the organization deliver front-line emergency care to people in Afghanistan, Siberia and South Sudan, among other places. Currently MSF's Human Resources Director, Moore agrees that mobility is one of the big draws of the organization. "If you're flexible and adaptable and willing to adjust to the needs of the organization, and you can move to wherever you're needed," she says, "it is certainly an organization full of opportunities globally."
People who work for MSF Canada are privy to a view on the world that most others aren't fortunate enough to have. And the work itself is intensely rewarding. "We're providing essential life-saving health care," Janssens adds. "It's a no-brainer when you're in the field. It's something that goes beyond being a job." Office staff can also join meetings and talk to international visitors. Furthermore, says Moore, "you do have the opportunity to experience moving around the world and to have an impact globally not just by influencing activities but by interacting with international actors and people in other offices."
The work can be incredibly demanding and the pay is modest, but the benefits package is generous and the opportunities to learn and develop are endless. Among other things, MSF Canada offers tuition subsidies for job-related courses and professional accreditation as well as mentoring and coaching initiatives. "Without our people, we're nothing," says Moore. "We're an organization founded on the concept of volunteerism, and that makes it all the more important to truly value the people who are giving so much of themselves for our work."
After a certain amount of time, every employee has the right to "join" the MSF Association. At that point, a member can make a motion at the annual general assembly; in fact, some of the biggest changes globally have come through members. "It's really an association of people who are drawn together by their humanitarian ideals," Moore adds. "After two decades, I am still fiercely proud of being part of MSF and of what we do. Saving lives and alleviating suffering?it doesn't get much more meaningful than that."