Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Cap, gown, degree -- the world awaits you

  • Print

I arrived back in Winnipeg last week. All around me were the typical rites of spring -- flowers blooming, mosquitoes humming and graduates. Graduates everywhere.

It was not long ago, I was myself a new university graduate, entering the world and the job market.

My career choices -- my reality -- are quite different from other peoples', but I think I have some experience to share with those now plotting their futures.

Working in war zones and negotiating with everyone carrying an AK-47 (still the weapon of choice in most active conflicts) is not where I saw myself 10 years ago.

I had a normal childhood in St. Vital, going to schools in the area and even working in the centre of it all: St. Vital Centre. I went to university because that's what you do after high school. In my fourth year of engineering, I realized I never thought about what is going to come after. I knew getting a job and settling down seemed to be expected, but that didn't sit right with me.

That's when I saw an article about Engineers Without Borders, who were just starting up. Here was a group of engineers who didn't want to build big-box stores and saw greater challenges in the world. I was sold.

The experience of working with the humanitarian aid organization led to speaking engagements at events in Winnipeg, and I crossed paths with a local physician who worked with Doctors Without Borders. When I learned that they needed engineers, my future instantly became clearer.

In the last decade, my engineering degree has taken me around the world. For the last three years I have been working for Doctors Without Borders, commonly know by its French acronym, MSF. (Engineers Without Borders and Doctors Without Borders are separate organizations with very different programs -- development vs. emergency relief).

Starting off in the Democratic Republic of Congo, I was amazed to see the sheer number of different armed groups operating. After settling in to my official duties, supervising construction, transport and power supply, I learned that you do whatever job is necessary. Negotiating with local authorities, armed men in uniform (as they're referred to) and the local population quickly enhances your soft skills: leadership, management, and of course, negotiation.

The work of MSF in regions like this allows me to experience things I never thought possible.

Although I encourage anyone with a sense of adventure and a desire to make real change to do this work, the goal is always the beneficiaries.

The strength and courage of the people MSF treats are unbelievable. As a non-medical, it is still amazing to see first mission doctors arrive, dumbfounded by women walking immediately after a Caesarian section, or the resilience of people living with HIV. This is the reason we do what we do.

As much as I love my job, I could not do it without seeing the end result. All people have the right to proper medical care, regardless of where they happen to be born. Especially when they are caught in the conflicts around them.

Having returned this week from the Central African Republic, a country overthrown in March after a terrible civil war, I understand the fear and worry my friends and family felt for me. As hard as it is to tell them, it is nothing compared to the fear I've seen in the local people. I felt quite safe in comparison.

This line of work is not for everyone, but I believe it is for more people than realize it. For anyone unsure of what's next for them, it is a job that will never match financial reason, but at the same time, will top most other prospects on job satisfaction. It exceeds anything imaginable.

With a profession, medical, technical or other, this can be the most amazing career in the world. For anyone looking for something different, look into the humanitarian world. It can change your world. And theirs.

Todd Phillips, 32, recently spent nine months on his third mission with M©decins Sans Fronti®res in Central African Republic, where he co-ordinated the security and operations for an international team providing medical care in a town of about 30,000 in the southern part of the country.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 22, 2013 A17

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Willy wants to get back to winning

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Hay bales sit under a rainbow just west of Winnipeg Saturday, September 3, 2011.(John Woods/Winnipeg Free Press)
  • Young goslings jostle for position to take a drink from a puddle in Brookside Cemetery Thursday morning- Day 23– June 14, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you think the Jets' three pre-season losses in a row are a sign of things to come?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google