Who was Hélène?

The life of Hélène

Hélène was born in 1974. Early in life, she received an internationally oriented education with an emphasis on study, duty and social responsibility. She obtained a law degree from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Free University of Brussels) and a Master’s degree in International Relations from the Johns Hopkins School of International Studies in Washington D.C., USA.

Even as an adolescent she already had a social conscience and a sharp sense of justice. She took part in several youth projects to address poverty in Hungary, Kenya, India and Venezuela. Her studies and interests paved the way for her commitment to building a better world: humanitarian work.

She worked in Liberia as part of the Jimmy Carter Foundation and assisted in the drafting of a new constitution. She later worked for the Belgian Development Cooperation and after passing through the world of finance, she was sent to Afghanistan for the first time in August 2002.  In Herat she worked to assist thousands of people who were internally displaced by conflict and had been living in camps for over a decade.

In 2003 she joined Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) leaving for Iraq in April and then the Ivory Coast in June. In the spring of 2004, she travelled again to Afghanistan to run a tuberculosis clinic in the western province of Badghis. She was respected and loved by everyone.

Fate strikes.

On 2 June 2004 gunfire was directed at a Médecins Sans Frontières vehicle on its way to the capital Khabul. Hélène was brutally shot dead together with four of her colleagues. The motive for the murder remains unknown to this day. It probably lies in the increasing criminality in Afghanistan where the traffic in weapons and drugs (poppies) represent a large part of the domestic market.

In the aftermath, Médecins Sans Frontières withdrew from Afghanistan because they were persuaded that the safety, integrity and neutrality of its operations could no longer be guaranteed.

Throughout all her missions, Hélène was eyewitness to a great deal of human suffering and violence. She devoted herself to improve living conditions, listened to poignant stories of victims and wrote impressive eyewitness accounts and recommendations to better their future. Her special attention went out to the circumstances of women, threefold victims of tradition, disease and violence. Hélène was proud to work for Médecins Sans Frontières. As project leader, one of her responsibilities was to ensure that the team could carry out its tasks in the best possible circumstances.

In 2007, the general assembly of Médecins Sans Frontières decided to set up a foundation which would support, among other things, the organization's  applied research in the field of human rights, malnutrition, water supply and access to medicine.

The establishment of the Hélène De Beir Foundation

Later that same year, the Hélène De Beir Foundation was established, specifically to support the humanitarian work of Médecins Sans Frontières,

The Hélène De Beir Foundation supports this aspect of Médecins Sans Frontières' activities through fieldwork, but the Foundation also engages in projects and programmes on its own account which reflect Hélène’s work and outlook on life. The Hélène De Beir Foundation carries on the work of my daughter. I invite you to get to know this Foundation via our website or via our brochures and publications.

Moreover, I strongly encourage you to contact me to discuss personally your interest in the foundation. I very much appreciate your collaboration in whatever form it may be. And I have no doubt that your collaboration will also enrich you on a personal level as it will contribute to creating the better world for which Hélène worked with heart and soul until her untimely end.

Please do not hesitate to contact me. All your questions shall be answered swiftly and your remarks taken into consideration.

Francis De Beir, chairman