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[Solidarity Story] : Catherine Duplessy

06 November 2023 Portrait
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I joined RSB in 1992, cohort 3, with the idea that I would pursue a career in the humanitarian or social field. During my studies I had the opportunity to develop the Sup de Cœur association, with which we organised several humanitarian convoys between the grandes écoles. In 3rd year I was also able to carry out a pre-professional project, working 1 day a week in an NGO, the Comité d'Aide Médicale France, where I started my professional activity on leaving school in 1995.

I completed my academic training with a DU in Health and Education at the Nancy Faculty of Medicine, then obtained the Certification d'Aptitude à la Fonction de Directeur d'Établissement Social et Médico-Social at the École des Hautes Études de Santé Publique in Rennes.

After 6 years as head of missions for the Comité d'Aide Médicale, with programmes in Albania, Congo, Kosovo, Moldavia, Timor and Ukraine, in 2001 I took over the management of SAFE, a humanitarian and social aid association set up in 1989.

  • Can you tell us about the SAFE association, what's happening with it and your job?

SAFE is involved in public health initiatives in France, focusing on the fight against HIV (AIDS), hepatitis C and sexually transmitted infections, as well as providing support for people with addictive practices. It also carries out humanitarian work abroad, particularly in Ukraine.

My work is very multi-faceted: team management, grant-seeking, project development and management, budget and financial management, advocacy, action research, etc.

The latest SAFE news I'd like to share with you is the humanitarian emergency in Ukraine. We are acting as a humanitarian bridge between our association and the Ukraine Medical Aid Committee team. To date, we have shipped 155 semi-trailers of essential goods. We are supporting hospitals, medical stabilisation centres set up near the front line, and emergency accommodation centres.

All this work is carried out thanks to a formidable chain of solidarity with numerous companies, including the Septodont laboratory, which provides free storage for our goods, Geodis, which provides free transport for the products donated to us, and the Fondation de France and the Ouest-France Solidarité association, which provide financial support for our work.

But the needs are still enormous, so I need you all, dear Alumni, to collect donations in kind or financial donations from your companies. They are tax-deductible. Every day, thanks to our help, the injured are treated and refugees are fed and housed.

Click here to take part in the fundraising campaign

  • What influenced your career path and got you where you are today?

First and foremost, my career has been influenced by an exceptional upbringing and family environment, with a Franco-Polish mother who was a member of the resistance movement and very involved in the Solidarnosc movement in the 1980s, and a father who was a scientist and member of the first IPCC, who made me think about climate issues and the importance of preserving our planet.

It has also been influenced by encounters with exceptional personalities, among my friends, colleagues and fellow politicians, who have helped me to grow, build my commitment and develop my skills.

  • What values do you bring to your work?

My work values are Respect - Mutual Aid - Solidarity - Empathy - Acceptance - Universality.

These values first and foremost give meaning to my work, which is first and foremost a commitment to serving people who are suffering, all over the world. They are fundamental values that enable us to build healthy, harmonious relationships both within our team and with our partners and beneficiaries. In our work supporting the most vulnerable and people with risk behaviors, or in our international solidarity initiatives, they lead us to recognize and appreciate cultural and social differences, and to accept our beneficiaries' choices without judgment. They also play a decisive role in team management. We are confronted with difficult human situations, stress, urgency, the need to constantly adapt and innovate. This forces us to respect each other, support each other, help each other, and share our ideas and strengths.

These values give meaning to my work, which is first and foremost a commitment to helping people who are suffering, all over the world.

  • What is your greatest achivement?

My greatest achievement, which is a collective achievement, is a humanitarian programme I ran in an orphanage in Ukraine between 1994 and 2001. When we arrived, the place was an orphanage, with a child death rate of around 20% a year. We rehabilitated the buildings, trained the staff to transform the medical and educational care, and did everything necessary to adapt the food, hygiene and living conditions.

Not only do the children no longer die there, but the site has become an exceptional place to live, considered a model in the country. Ukrainian staff now run a school, a work-aid center for handicapped adults, a farm for self-produced food... In these times of war, it also welcomes children evacuated from combat zones. The beginnings were very hard, so we're all the happier to have achieved this result.

  • Do you have a hidden talent / passion?

I love to cook, alone or with my family. I don't know if I'm really "talented", but there's often a crowd around the table. I love the aroma and smells of cooking, trying out new things, working on taste and aesthetics, and of course sharing meals. They're moments of conviviality, sharing and relaxation.

  • The final word?

Do you want to become rich? Give something!

By giving some of your time or resources, you will have the privilege of helping to create a peaceful world where democratic freedom is the only valid force.

Find Catherine on LinkedIn




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