Changemakers - Kate Gracey
26 November 2012 at 9:21 am
Kate Gracey is a humanitarian field worker for Médecins Sans Frontières. This week we profile Kate in Changemakers – a regular column which examines inspiring people and their careers in the Not for Profit sector.
Médecins Sans Frontières is the world’s leading independent organisation for medical humanitarian aid. Every day more than 24,000 MSF field staff are providing assistance to people caught in crises around the world. MSF has offices in 19 countries supporting these teams, including an Australian office in Sydney. Every year around one hundred Australians and New Zealanders are sent to and supported in the field by MSF Australia.
What are you currently working on in your organisation?
I've just delivered a lecture to post-grad students at Sydney University on the subject of security and safety for aid workers. With the incidence of politically-motivated violent attacks on aid workers increasing in various parts of the world, it's critical that potential field staff understand the issues and risks, and how adherence to the humanitarian principles is one of the most important mitigation measures.
What was your first job in the Not for Profit sector?
My first job was as a logistician in Goma, Zaire, as part of the response to 1994's massive refugee crisis resulting from the Rwandan genocide, and it affected me profoundly. I was so inexperienced and naïve, and it was an absolute baptism by fire. But I was surrounded by people who would give anything for the educational opportunities available to me and that I was taking for granted.
So, with the critical need for safe water never more glaringly apparent than when working in a massive African refugee camp, I decided to do an environmental engineering degree when I returned home so that I could help address this issue. I joined Medecins Sans Frontieres in 1996 and my work with them is primarily in the area of water and sanitation.
What is the best thing about working in the Not for Profit sector?
Doing meaningful work for diverse communities in fascinating places with international teams of passionate and motivated idealists.
What do you like best about working in your current organisation?
MSF is a worldwide movement of current and former field staff, grouped into national and regional associations. Collectively, they make sure that MSF stays true to its mission and principles. Everyone is encouraged to have a voice and everyone is expected to participate in strategic discussions and debates. Everybody is valued and included, whether a new recruit or an old-timer.
“Tug on anything at all and you'll find it connected to everything else in the universe.” – John Muir
What are you reading/ watching/ listening to at the moment?
I'm currently watching video lectures for an online course in community public health that I'm doing through Johns Hopkins University, via Coursera. (I'm loving this new era of free online education!) And I'm reading “Bottlemania” by Elizabeth Royte which is about the social and environmental impacts of the bottled drinking water industry.