MSF Espace Bruno Corbé

We take a trip to Brussels to learn how MSF's humanitarian aid efforts operate, from start to finish.

In over 70 countries across the world, Médecins Sans Frontières provides lifesaving humanitarian assistance to those in the greatest need – irrespective of politics, race, religion or gender – and speaks out to raise awareness of people's suffering. For almost two years, McCannBlue has been working with MSF on a number of campaigns. We're proud of the work we have done with them to help impact the world in a positive way. Recently, we got to see just how far that impact goes, travelling to Brussels and the Espace Bruno Corbé, one of MSF's training and innovation centres.

This is where hundreds, if not thousands of doctors, logisticians, security, anthropologists and more go to be trained for the field; it's also where training for the Ebola crisis took place. After taking part in a disaster response training drill as victims, we were given a tour of one of the supply centres; I think we're all still grappling with the breadth of MSF's operation and how impressively it's run.

Over the past couple of years, we've really got to know MSF. We live and breathe their brand and truly believe in their mission – but this experience showed us that we have only seen the tip of the iceberg. Below, my colleagues detail some parts of our training day that really stood out; but trust me when I say that the scale, speed and efficiencies with which the MSF team runs have to be seen to be believed. I'm confident that following this immersion in their reality, our understanding will keep getting deeper, our communications stronger – and our work ever better.

– Orla Carroll, Account Manager

Our copywriter is wandering around with a bleeding nose and leg wound; smoke billows across the hospital area, making me cough; and a man lies on the ground with a pipe sticking out of his stomach. It's total chaos, but it's not an ad or a movie set, or even a particularly bad day at the office; we're taking part in MSF's mass casualty event training day for doctors and staff being sent to the field.

MSF only do these training days twice a year, so we're very privileged to have had the opportunity to participate as patients in the scenario. They take these events very seriously and treat each one like a real-life situation, from having people act as press and be a general nuisance, right down to giving us patients extremely realistic looking injuries for the doctors to treat.

I was really impressed with lengths to which MSF go to prepare their staff for life in the field. The set-up at the camp in Brussels really immerses you in how everything works once the doctors arrive at their destinations. The experience has given me a new appreciation of how much effort and attention goes into every little detail that MSF considers for missions abroad; and for us in McCannBlue, it's given an invaluable insight into approaching the work we make for them.

– Aoife Flynn, Art Director

I have been lucky enough to work on Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) from the beginning of this agency's relationship with them. I have written copy for their responses to the Rohingya refugee crisis, the Syrian civil war and the humanitarian crisis in Borno State, Nigeria amongst other things.

While working on each of these projects, I was awed by the scale of what of MSF medical staff do in the field and inspired by their reaction to the horrors they face. But before my visit to MSF Brussels, I had never considered the work that must be done before MSF doctors even reach the field.

From this trip, I now understand that MSF is more than an organisation of doctors and nurses. It is a movement made up of committed logisticians, pharmacists, warehouse workers, electricians, engineers, mechanics, sanitary workers… The list goes on, and every one of these people is essential to the lifesaving work of MSF.

Without them, nurses wouldn't have the plastic netting needed to maintain order during a vaccination campaign. Without them, there would be no way to keep the vaccines needed for that campaign at the correct temperature. Without them, there would not be a functioning car to get those vaccines to the clinic. Without them, there would be no way to crush and dispose of the used glass bottles that the vaccines came in.

Without them, MSF could not save lives.

Now, every time I write for MSF, I will be writing for not only medical staff and the patients that they save in the field, but for the logisticians, the warehouse workers and everyone else that makes the inspiring work of MSF possible.

– Amy Sergison, Copywriter

When working on MSF, I often spend most of my time engrossed in the lives of the victims and their surroundings. After all, these are the people we are trying to help. I think about the victims, their surroundings and their situations. I try to hone in on their stories and bring myself as close to the reality of the situation as possible. But I have never felt as close to their reality as I did when I was standing in the MSF Supply warehouse.

This very warehouse holds the exact medicine that will be administered to thousands of people in need of it, the scrubs that the MSF doctors wear and the exact manuals they follow. It even holds the tyres that take their cars in the field from A to B. Seeing the boxes of supplies ready to be shipped was a particularly powerful moment for me. Destined for countries like Kenya, Bangladesh, Haiti and Niger and due to arrive at their recipient missions within three days, it really highlighted just how very real it all is.

It was a day full of moving moments and I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to witness the dedication that is at the heart of what MSF do.

– Jessica Mahon, Social Media and Content Specialist

For a look at more of our work with MSF, check out our recent involvement in their Rohingya Refugee Emergency Appeal.