Hello, Olivia! What is your position at Médecins du Monde, and what does it entail?
I work as the Communications Coordinator for the international Médecins du Monde network: 16 chapters worldwide. I work on building a stronger global brand. I’ve also been in charge of the latest photography projects developed in-house.
What’s been one of the most memorable moments of your time with the organisation?
Human encounters… and of all places, in Calais. Meeting young dream-driven men who had made it all the way to the white cliffs of Dover. Homeless thousands of miles from the place they called home. We sometimes sat and watched ferries depart. And while it meant home for me, it meant hope for them. But while I could just hop on board, I knew most of them wouldn’t make it alive. It makes no sense.
What would you identify as the priorities of Médecins du Monde? And what makes it different from other organisations?
Médecins du Monde fights to make access to healthcare a worldwide fundamental right. We work in conflict zones, refugee camps and rural communities, providing care, creating infrastructure and advocating for the world’s most vulnerable people. The organisation is different from many other structures in that it also works with local partners in the field and empowers local communities to build sustainable, robust healthcare infrastructures.
Beyond care, Médecins du Monde also has a specific tradition of baring witness. The knowledge built in the field and first-hand access to precious data on human rights and healthcare is purposefully used to alert people of situations and raise awareness about unspoken realities.
Do you see a particular relationship to art within Médecins du Monde?
Médecins du Monde has a long story with Art. And, more specifically, a long-time love affair with photography. A few years back, we decided to move away from the traditional use of photography by NGOs where charities often appear as ‘heroes’ with their jackets and logos at the forefront whilst people we meet would have blurred faces…
We strongly believe that we can act as an amplifier of people’s life stories, so for us it’s about creating the shortest path between the people we work with and the general public. We share their stories and experiences, without us featuring in the center of it all. It’s more subtle and more powerful.
Could you tell us a bit about your in-house photography projects?
We’re currently working on an important photography project: Unsung Heroes with French portrait artist Denis Rouvre. Through 80 portraits and testimonies from women we met worldwide, we’re hoping to shed light on the manifold violence against women. We want people to understand that one in three women is faced with violence in her life. So, if there’s 7 billion of us on the planet— half of us women, that means more than a billion women… Their original voices and pictures will be heard and shown in Paris in October 2019 and start touring worldwide in 2020.
What made you decide to collaborate withSingulartfor this fundraising initiative?
We were convinced by the approach of Singulart’s creator who shares MdM’s values, especially on women-related subjects. Her sincere commitment and willingness to infuse greater solidarity within society, starting with her own staff and the artists she works with convinced us.
How do you view the role of companies – big or small – in contributing to positive change in the world?
By investing in philanthropic actions, companies assert their social commitment and often take part in general interest actions alongside their staff. All companies can do it, whatever their size. Companies become part of civil society when uniting with their partners. And this is more than necessary nowadays.
Who is your favourite artist of all time?
David Bowie. He took elegance and musicality to higher grounds, and perfectly embodies what Tony Ray Jones described in Martin Parr’s exhibition Only in England as being a true eccentric: “A genuine eccentric is one who pursues his own version of the truth and value of things untainted by outside pressures or conventions.” This is a trait that I respect and believe would avoid identity-led groups and the ills that they convey.
What’s the biggest obstacle you foresee in achieving universal access to healthcare?
The biggest obstacle… There are many. But mostly short-sighted politics.
And your biggest hope for the future?
As a woman, daughter, mother, aunt and sister: rewritten gender rules. I was lucky to be brought up a citizen regardless of sex. As I aged, I discovered the ills of ignorance and the intrinsic violence of male-written society. My biggest hope is that we, women and men, can rewrite those lines together.