x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Life lessons: Marc Sauvagnac

Marc Sauvagnac, the executive director of the Abu Dhabi office of Medecins Sans Frontieres, gives his philosophies on life.

Sammy Dallal / The National
Sammy Dallal / The National

Marc Sauvagnac, 46, is the executive director of the Abu Dhabi office of Médecins Sans Frontières. As part of MSF for 12 years, he has witnessed many human dramas. Born and raised in France, he has been based here since 2009, with his wife and four children.


Open your mind. We need to read and travel more to better understand others and witness the real living situation of most of the people around the globe or even those in the street next to us. Unfortunate things can happen to any one of us or our loved ones so it is important to have empathy. An enhanced knowledge and awareness of all dramatic contexts where MSF is providing assistance has given me a lot of understanding in this regard.

Be tolerant and respectful. Our education, traditions, personal histories and experiences influence the way we see the world. But it's important that we accept our weaknesses and respect the weaknesses of others in order to better accept differences. Try to address difficult and sensitive issues in the most constructive way possible.

Act now. Everything we undertake at a personal level can sometimes not be enough, but multiple individual initiatives can achieve major things. We have seen in past and recent history how human willingness and determination can change situations dramatically and how, on the contrary, indifference can lead to human disasters.

Don't turn away. Often when we are confronted with unpleasant situations, we prefer to look away - it's a defence mechanism. In our modern and healthy world, there are many reasons as to why we prefer not to see what happens in other parts of the world; one explanation could be to avoid questioning our personal choices. However, I think that facing situations is probably the best way to overcome problems, and find solutions.

Love your friends and family. It's so important to spend quality time with our children and love them, showing them the way. We must accept at the same time that we are not all perfect parents but try to do the best we can. Children are our future and need us as much as we need them. During the most difficult periods of my life so far, my children gave me the strength to continue and envisage another start. I bless them for that.

As told to Jemma Nicholls

For more information on MSF see the Middle East website www.msf-me.org