And the winning doll is.

“We’re just not missing you at all” my GSK manager. Perhaps now would be a good time for some reflection.

Skills that I like to think I have developed while away would include adaptability, creativity and risk taking; skills that appear to be second nature, almost unremarkable, to those living in the township. If a working tractor is not available to help plough the ground set aside for planting at the enterprise zone then a team of twenty volunteers can be assembled to turn the earth. If there is no budget for toys at a crèche then toys can be created using paper, colouring pens and empty Hansa pilsner bottles. A week long children’s health club can be successfully delivered even when planning starts the day before the event.

The children’s health club filled me with anxiety and dread at the time. How could anything useful come out of a plan hatched at such short notice and how would I cope with delivering the puberty lessons I’d been volunteered for? By the end of the week it was clear that children had been educated, entertained and kept safe and I had also learnt a few things from my pupils. Perhaps, at GSK the fear of not being perfect inhibits innovation or encourages procrastination rather than the efficient delivery of fit for purpose programs?

I have since surprised myself with the range of activities that I have been involved in. If on my return there is a need to hastily facilitate a men’ s group chat about child abuse, a best dressed baby doll competition to attend or a beekeeping business plan to critique, I’ll be your man. Adaptability, creativity and risk taking were needed for each task. Although scared at times at the men’s focus group it helped me better understanding the beliefs and concerns of those being interviewed. Back at GSK, Observational Database Analytics are looking to assist new customers. Focus groups could be a way to first talk to them about their role and their needs before presenting on how we may be able to support them.

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18 members of the Safe and Sound mother care training program were asked to create over a fortnight a set of clothes for a baby doll that were durable yet will be easy for the children in their care to take on and off the doll.

Another skill that appears to come naturally in Munsieville is the ability of community leaders to coach and allow others to take ownership of projects. The health club was organised by the youth of the community for the children of the community. The plan for the event was developed during an informal discussion between those volunteering to man the event and Project Hope staff. When asked “What should happen if a supervisor for the event forgets to bring their supervisor jacket to the event?” the volunteers came up with their own solution “They’ll get to clean the toilets”. No one forgot their jacket.

Time and again, projects are developed with and enthusiastically delivered by community volunteers. As at GSK, people are more engaged when working on projects they find relevant to their lives and which they have had the opportunity to shape. Letting those at the coal face shape projects also helps ensure that the program is presented to recipients in a format that they will understand and can lead to innovative approaches being adopted. One challenge for children living in the informal settlement of Mshenguville is what to do after school while waiting for their caregivers to return home. One volunteer has suggested “Why not build a small shack near their homes which could hold an After School Club run by volunteers where there would be books, toys and a chance to do homework?” another has added “Why not also use this shack to demonstrate precautions that can be taken to prevent fires?”. A meeting with a local councillor has been set up by the volunteers to try and progress this initiative.

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Left to right three volunteers at Kaiser Chiefs v Orlando Pirates; Ifram, football coach for local U-14 team and Youth and Sports hub committee member; “Mapping” Obakang, Resilience hub health officer; “Basketball” Obakang, basketball coach and graphics expert.

In summary, good weather most days, a varied and unusual job that involves working with friendly, intelligent and enthusiastic volunteers and unlimited access to Sky Sports*. I’m just not missing GSK at all.

* I have now watched Tottenham 0 West Ham 3 five times.