On Aug. 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his influential “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington D.C., just outside of the Lincoln Memorial. Contained within his acclaimed address was the line, “I say to you, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream.” MLK spoke with a passion, a passion sparked by his desire to see his fellow brothers and sisters live free of racial boundaries. And this same passion that MLK once had persists to this day. The Medecins Sans Frontieres foundation, or Doctors Without Borders, is an example of this passion in action. Doctors Without Borders is an example of Martin Luther King’s dream of helping others in times of need and providing assistance to those who are too poor or too disadvantaged to obtain it for themselves.
The story of Doctors Without Borders begins on May 1968, corresponding with a time of unrest known as the Revolt of May ‘68, an event that would greatly shake the country of France, the home of the founders of the DWB. Due to frequent broadcasts of the revolt, the French public was soon shown the horrors of disease and starvation in other corners of the world. Shortly after this, the African province of Biafra seceded from the nation of Nigeria, provoking Nigerian armies into surrounding the area and instigating a mass famine. Max Recamier and Pascal Grelletty-Bosviel, both Red Cross workers, intervened in the conflict. While there, the men risked their own lives and witnessed the terrifying sights and sounds of war. The two became distressed at the Red Cross’s lack of action on the behalf of the Biafran people.
Not long after, Grellety-Bosivel and Recaimer helped establish Doctors Without Borders, officially formed on Dec. 22, 1971, a foundation created on the principle that all people had the right to medical aid, no matter their race, religion, cultural background, gender, or political affiliation. From that day forward, DWB would continue to help thousands of endangered people who lacked proper medical care.
The Doctors Without Borders foundation has been helping people around the world for more than 30 years, working primarily in regions of conflict, natural disasters, or disease. In addition to this, DWB responds to urgent catastrophes, which allows them to deploy at practically any country within hours. DWB staff includes many trained doctors and nurses to care for the sick and injured and give evaluations or personal consultations on mental health. Since the DWB team works all across the world, they are given access to new information and data that go towards further research into medical sciences. This new research also enables the DWB to spread awareness for the many outbreaks of disease across the world, another one of its main goals.
Since the creation of Doctors Without Borders, many more patients have been treated across the globe than ever before. In 2017 alone, the foundation treated around 10,648,300 patients, and assisted in 288,900 births worldwide. This enormous impact demonstrates not only the efficiency of the foundation, but also that there is still hope for those who will need their services in the future.
When Doctors Without Borders was first conceived in 1971, its creators had a dream: that people who needed aid, even in the remote places, could receive the proper help and treatment. They also dreamed that people could work alongside one another in a united union. And they dreamed that, even despite dangerous conditions such as a war or natural disaster, that they could still bring assistance to those who needed it most. Martin Luther King Jr. had this same dream — that you could make a triumph for good despite whatever was set against you. And today, the DWB represents this in full effect. Whatever may happen, there will always be ones who are ready to take informed action for the sake of others, out of the goodness of their heart. And this is exactly what Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed about all those many years ago.
Logan Shobe is an eighth-grader at Kastner Intermediate School in the Clovis Unified School District. His essay took first place in the junior high division of the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools’ MLK contest.