© Isabel Corthier/MSF
 MSF Information Education and Communication Manager, Moses Luhanga, high fives a patient at Nsanje District Hospital in Malawi.
10 Dec 19 17 Feb 20

11 ideas to beat the winter blues and help our teams save lives

The end of January can be a difficult time of year.

The festive season is well and truly over, all the mince pies we consumed over Christmas are sitting somewhere around our waistlines, and, despite our best intentions, our New Year's resolutions are wavering.

For those taking part in Veganuary and Dry January, it's been a long month of going without, but don't despair! We've got you covered with 11 ideas to help you feel good, save lives and beat the January blues. 


1. Put the developing world on the map

Every day, MSF staff use maps to get to patients, assess the needs of crisis-hit communities, track the spread of disease and respond to emergencies, such as natural disasters and conflict. 

However, in many parts of the world we work, there are no maps, or the ones that exist are hopelessly out of date.

Volunteer mappers at a Missing Maps party trace satellite images of vulnerable locations.

This means our staff are often forced to rely on hand-drawn sketches or print outs of satellite images. 

That's where the Missing Maps Project comes in.

Missing Maps is a joint initiative by Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF), the British Red Cross, the American Red Cross and the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT).

We are recruiting thousands of volunteers to build a detailed and useful map of the world that will help us deliver emergency medical aid and improve the lives of the planet's most vulnerable people.

Find out how you can help here

2. Eat a chilli on camera 

Tuberculosis (TB) is a life-threatening infectious disease that kills 1.6 million people each year. 

We're calling on pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson to drop the price of its lifesaving TB medication, bedaquiline, to no more than US$1 per day for people everywhere who need it.

You can help by joining MSF's #NoMoreTears chilli challenge.

It's simple – find a chilli, film yourself eating it (while trying not to cry) and upload the video to social media with the hashtag #NoMoreTears to tell @JNJCares to make TB medication more affordable.

3. Be a change-maker

Are you a student? Friends of MSF are societies based in universities around the UK and Ireland that raise awareness and funds for MSF.

They also encourage students to consider working for organisations like MSF, hosting activities such as film screenings, talks with field staff and other career-focused events. 

If you're a UK student, contact your local group to get involved. If there's not a group listed at your university, why not consider setting one up yourself?

4. Pledge your birthday 

Sick of getting socks for your birthday? Set up a birthday fundraiser on Facebook so that your loved ones can give to those in need instead.

Their donations will help MSF provide emergency medical aid to people affected by war, natural disasters and disease outbreaks in over 65 countries around the world. 

British nurse Josie Gilday tends to patients on her rounds in the therapeutic feeding centre at the MSF hospital in Lankien, South Sudan.

Simply go to the Fundraisers tab on Facebook, click "Select non-profit" and search "MSF" to create your fundraiser. 

5. Host a fundraising event

From bake sales to music and gaming events, our amazing fundraisers find a wide range of ways to support us – and we couldn't do our work without them. 

Interested in hosting your own fundraiser? We've put together a quick-start guide to make raising money for MSF easier than ever. 

You can also request an MSF speaker to appear at your event. 

On any given day, there are over 30,000 inspiring doctors, nurses, logisticians and other project staff working for MSF overseas. Our UK office is responsible for 300 staff and many of them are happy to share their stories once they've returned home. 

6. Volunteer at the MSF UK office in London 

Volunteers are an essential part of MSF UK.

We benefit from a strong group of regular volunteers who support our permanent staff. They work in roles that may involve clerical work or specialist skills and experience. 

Check our Volunteering page for current opportunities. 

7. Get crafty

P/hop – which stands for "pennies per hour of pleasure" – is a knitting project that connects knitters around the country, while raising money for MSF.

Generous designers have donated their time and knitting and crochet patterns to p/hop, which are available to download online.

There's no set price for a pattern – simply make a donation to MSF via the JustGiving page on the p/hop website based on how many hours of pleasure you'll get from the pattern. 

The p/hop project also raises money through knit swaps and knitting events. 

8. Work in the field

From midwifery to HR, we're looking for a wide range of skills in the field. 

MSF recruits people from all over the world for a wide range of roles.

Each year, more than 2,500 international MSF staff join 30,000 locally hired staff to provide medical aid in countries around the world.

Find an overseas role with MSF or learn more about the application process and life on the frontline

9. Spread the word

We rely on our network of supporters to raise awareness about MSF's work, to shine a light on forgotten crises, to inspire future MSF staff and to raise funds so that our teams have the resources they need to help people. 

There are many ways you can help spread the word about MSF. 

We're on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter. Follow us on social media to get the latest updates on our work and to join the conversation on important issues, such as migration and climate change. 

MSF also offers online resources for schools and teachers, as well as downloadable resources to help you raise awareness. 

10. Donate

How we spend your money

MSF UK doesn't receive money from the government, which means it is 100 percent funded by donations from private individuals and organisations.

Eighty-five percent of our funding is spent on our humanitarian work and we are transparent about where that money goes.

There are many different ways you can donate:

  • Become a monthly donor - just £6 a month would cover the cost of putting a doctor in a crisis zone for a day.
  • In celebration - celebrate a special occasion with a donation and optional greetings card.
  • In memory - make a donation and send an optional card in memory of a loved one.

You can also leave a gift to MSF in your will or become one of our corporate supporters

11. Stay up to date

As the proverb goes, knowledge is power. 

Sign up to our email newsletter Frontline to get monthly updates about our emergency medical work straight to your inbox.

We carefully curate Frontline to include our most urgent, interesting and unusual stories from MSF staff around the world. We also let you know about emergency appeals and upcoming events, so you're always in the know.

for more warm and fuzzies: meet the first MSF babies of 2020 >