In honor of National Children’s Book Day, I had the pleasure of accompanying the Save the Children Country Director and staff in the Philippines to the July 16th “First Read” Program Celebration at Taguig City University. The “First Read” program focuses on early childhood development for children ages 0-4 and is being implemented in 123 municipalities in Metro Manila and South Central Mindanao. Recognizing the importance of children’s earliest experiences for their future learning, the “First Read” staff and volunteers work with parents of pre-school aged children to provide them knowledge, skills and materials to support their children’s emergent literacy and numeracy skills through exposure to books in their mother tongue language and also introduces the concept of numbers and shapes to the children.
Distinguished guests who attended the event to show support included several mayors and city officials of nearby municipalities, representatives from PruLife UK (the donor of this program), the book publishers who supplied the children’s books, as well as the Deputy Head of Mission from the British Embassy in Manila. It was really heartwarming to see such solidarity between the government, NGO, and corporations collaborating as partners to benefit the kids of the community.
This was also the day when GSK was featured in the global news as the subject of a criminal investigation in China. So when I introduced myself as an employee of GSK to Mr. Trevor Lewis from the British Embassy, he winced and said “I hope you don’t work in China!…” I was a bit caught off-guard by this comment at the time because I didn’t have any detailed information about the investigation. All I could do is to re-iterate that if the alleged behavior is true, it is definitely not tolerated by GSK and that my home team in R&D actually focuses on making our clinical data available to the public and the regulators so we can be transparent about our operations. It was the first time in my 13- year career at GSK that I felt a need to keep a low profile about being a GSK employee in mixed company, which felt unnatural because I know the good work that goes on in the company and the outstanding character of the people I work with. I got a glimpse for what it feels like to be out in the field and having to defend the integrity of many because of the indiscretions of few. Hopefully, through the PULSE assignment and exposure to the many GSK volunteers, our NGO partners will draw their own conclusions about the integrity of the culture at GSK.
Later that same week, the Save the Children staff and I also attended the End Hunger Concert, organized by the National Nutrition Council of the Department of Health in the Philippines. Many of the local NGOs were invited as guests, including Save the Children, to help raise awareness for what people can do to put an end to hunger and malnutrition. According to a study by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute, 3 in every 10 Filipino children aged 5 and below are stunted or too short for their age while 2 in every 10 children in the same age range are underweight. Here’s an advertisement I saw in the newspaper for a product that probably wouldn’t sell as well in the U.S.:
The headliner of the concert, Bamboo Mañalac, who is a current judge on the “Voice of the Philippines”, brought the house down! Towards the end of the concert, the Save the Children staff and I signed the pledge wall to reinforce our commitment to combat hunger and malnutrition.