Trying to make the world a better place as it crumbles around you. Turning the impossible into the possible. Aude Thorel (class of 1998) brings both huge effort and deep emotion to her work.
Aude came across Médecins Sans Frontières in the field during the Kosovan War (1999) and subsequently decided to join the organisation. 18 years later, her initial enthusiasm hasn’t diminished: “Every one of my colleagues has a flame burning inside them” she says passionately, “whether they are at headquarters, in other MSF offices worldwide or in the field. They are committed both individually and collectively. Care for other people, for humanity, via professional or medical ethics, is what makes the difference. It’s second nature to help. It’s a powerful urge!”
Head and heart: a conscience that dares to act
Responsible for an organisation of more than 7,000 people as Director of Human Resources, Aude makes at least one visit to the field each year: “Our missions and the hospitals we run are the heart of our work,” she assures me, “It would be difficult to be in a senior role without being connected to that reality.” Reality often means confronting your own doubts, your own powerlessness, even when it leads to despondency. “In 2014, I went to Liberia to work on Ebola. At that time there was no treatment. People were begging for our help. It was catastrophic,” she says in a whisper. “We took incredible risks to try to save them. We tried things that had never been tried before, and we shared them with others, so they would be less isolated.” Over time, experience has sharpened her analytical faculties, and Aude knows how to navigate between pragmatism and her emotions. “Today, when I encounter tragedy, I have a way of working that is both professional and emotional. At MSF, you can continue to be yourself. Emotions aren’t taboo, because it’s normal to respond with your heart as well as your head. Both are allowed, and that’s healthy.”
Hope in action
What drives Aude is “the hope of a better world”. What nourishes her is being surrounded by “the richness of humanity… a humanist perspective, perhaps” she elucidates. She wears her hard-won successes lightly. “We can influence events, but we can’t really change them. What’s important is to do everything you can. And perhaps also to accept your own limits,” she adds. “I fight for something that doesn’t seem all that achievable; you have to have a burning passion that goes beyond reason.” When you hear Aude speak so passionately, you can see that it’s all about light. Forging a path with just the spark of a new idea to light the way. Seeing hope rekindled in the eyes of the people you help. Aude is an enlightened person, a beacon of hope offering the possibility of better days to come.
Interview by Marie Luc Mâlet