On the road for Doctors Without Borders
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August 18, 2017

Noor Cornelissen is on the move. The 25-year old graduate from Jacobs University works for Doctors Without Borders, currently on a Search and Rescue ship for people crossing the Mediterranean. Before that she was in the Congo and in Uganda in a camp for South Sudanese refugees. As “Humanitarian Affairs Officer” her task in Africa was, among other things, to analyze the humanitarian context of the aid organization’s local health centers.

Why would a particular ethnic group not use the services of the medical humanitarian organization? In order to find out why, Noor goes to villages to speak with the people, through for example women’s groups, local healers and community leaders. The goal is to collect information, for instance, on which health issues are important to the population and to understand their health-seeking behavior. Another part of her job is to support the contact with other actors in the region, be they government representatives or armed actors, and to advocate for better access to medical and humanitarian care.

Noor Cornelissen’s choise of work has a lot to do with Jacobs University. The humanitarian from Rotterdam attended the United World College (UWC) in the United States, an international school with students from 120 countries that guides young people to have more tolerance and a sense of responsibility through international education, community service and social engagement. “Upon finishing, I absolutely wanted to study at a university with a similar sense of community that is international and diverse”. It was an easy decision to make after visiting Bremen and receiving a campus tour of another former UWC student.

She applied to study psychology at the English-speaking Jacobs University. But by mistake she attended a lecture in political science on her first day. “On the second day, I changed to international politics and history”. At the private university, subjects can be changed easily in the first year. She has not regretted her decision. “The seminar “Histories of Development” by Prof. Dr. Corinna Unger in particular influenced my career choices”.

She was looking for an international community and found an international community of students from around 100 countries. “At Jacobs University, there is this great feeling of togetherness that supported me in many things”. Leonoor Cornelissen graduated in 2013, and enrolled for a Masters in International Development at the Geneva Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. She has been working for Doctors Without Borders since 2015. She particularly values the organization's embeddedness in local communities. “90% of our employees come from the country of operations. We commonly live locally among and with the people. This closeness to people is a major reason for the success of our work”.

She maintains contact with Jacobs University. Between deployments abroad, Noor Cornelissen advertises her employer at the University’s career fair. She would be happy if any of the University’s students would work for an aid organization after their course of study. “The students at Jacobs University are unique. We need people like these”.

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