We had the opportunity to speak with Magali Chabrelie (on the left in the photo), who has just been appointed Director of the “Dispensaire Français-Société de Bienfaisance”. It was the perfect time to find out more about her career path and the challenges that lie ahead with her new position.
Q. How long have you been involved with the “Dispensaire Français”?
A. It’s already been more than 10 years. When I arrived in London – about 15 years ago – I trained for a course in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) over two years. Blandine Charteris, then Director of the Dispensary, recruited me shortly afterwards as a volunteer coach, in charge of a group of elderly and isolated people.
Q. You then held various positions within the Dispensary, didn’t you?
A. Indeed. I became a member of the communication committee and the fundraising team after being a coach. Then I was Assistant to the Director Laure Daya, whom I have just succeeded at the beginning of this year.
Q. What are the tasks attached to your new position?
A. My role is essentially to ensure, with the help of a nurse and a full-time administrative manager, the day-to-day running of this institution, which has a dual function: the Dispensary is both a charitable medical practice, in which some thirty health professionals give consultations (including general practitioners, dermatologists and gynaecologists), and a social centre for guidance and support. A total of 70 volunteers (health professionals, trustees and social volunteers) work regularly for the Dispensary.
My role as Director is to ensure that all the obligations inherent to this dual activity are fulfilled: health controls, secrecy of patient records, recruitment of health professionals, transparency of accounts, etc.
The Dispensary relies on the work of its trustees, most notably that of its President, Cécile d’Angelin, to finance the institution, which is mainly ensured through fundraising.
Q. What kind of challenges are you expecting?
A. The health crisis is one of them, of course. But the Dispensary has already managed to adapt. We have managed to remain almost always open since the beginning of the crisis. We have also developed a teleconsultation system for patients in isolation. In turn, this system has also benefited people outside London, including young students from different universities in the UK who have accessed counselling through our Youth Health Space. This phenomenon has broadened our scope of action.
At the medical level, we are confronted with an increasing number of serious cases, sometimes urgent, according to the doctors in the team: this is mainly due to the fact that a number of patients had to postpone their treatment because of the crisis.
At the social level, requests for assistance have also increased. Finding accommodation has become even more difficult due to the current health situation, as homeless people can no longer be accommodated in collective rooms in youth hostels, and need access to individual hotel rooms.
This increase due to the pandemic is unfortunately combined with the impossibility for us to organise our traditional fundraising events, which weakens our financial balance.
Q. What are your aspirations/ hopes/ desires for your new position?
A. The Dispensary will have to continue to adapt to the needs of the most vulnerable French speakers. The profile of these people may change as a result of the health crisis and Brexit. It is possible that in the future we won’t be solicited by young workers in the catering sector or young au-pairs, as much as before, and will be more solicited by families with low incomes and no medical insurance. We will have to find solutions accordingly.
On a more personal note, I would also like to help highlight all the volunteers at the Dispensary, who do an admirable job and show impressive loyalty despite the constraints they face. I always say that the Dispensary is a huge heart, but with a lot of frames around it!