Rockville, Maryland —> Kigali, Rwanda

In my very first week as a GSK employee, I remember seeing a small blurb in some HR material about this “PULSE” program which sends volunteers around the world to support various partner NGOs.  “Sign me up!” I thought.  And as soon as I was eligible and the timing was right, I sent away my application to the PULSE team.  Progressing through each step of the matching process, it became evident that these hopes of mine actually stood a chance of becoming a reality.

And here I am, just a few weeks shy of departing for Kigali, Rwanda to work with the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) supporting the Rwandan Ministry of Health.  I would be lying if I said the prospect of picking up and moving to Rwanda for six months was not daunting one.  I still have a lot of boxes to check off on my (many) lists before I will be ready to get on a plane, but with the resources and support provided by the PULSE team, I am steadily making my way there.

“So…what will you be doing there?” is the question I get most often when I tell family, friends, and coworkers about my upcoming assignment.  First, some background:

GFDL (, via Wikimedia Commons

Rwanda is a small country (a touch smaller than the state of Maryland) just below the Equator in east Africa.  Of course, I can’t claim to be an expert on all things Rwanda, so I will let Wikipedia do the talking for now.  I’m sure I will have plenty to add once my feet are on the ground in Kigali.

CHAI is an initiative of the Clinton Foundation whose goal is to strengthen health systems around the world, including programs to increase access to medicines and diagnostics, decrease incidence of HIV/AIDS and malaria, improve pediatric and women’s healthcare, and support laboratory services.

The CHAI program where I will spend my time is Human Resources for Health (HRH). This program addresses the global shortage of qualified healthcare workers.  You can read more about HRH here.

So, what will I be doing with my time in Rwanda?

The PULSE volunteer will help establish a sustainability plan for the HRH Program’s medical equipment and supply investment.  The assignment will involve in-depth analysis of the current medical equipment maintenance system, biomedical engineer capacity, hospital supply-chain management and management systems across hospital sites and the Ministry of Health.  The PULSE volunteer will work with current Ministry of Health staff to support existing evaluations and identify opportunities for optimization of management processes.

I am fortunate to have been partnered with another GSK volunteer to tackle this project (shout out to Desmond!), and I am looking forward to learning exactly where we will get to pick up the work on this undertaking.

For now, I will join the other PULSE volunteers in booking flights, securing accommodations, and creating a mental list of what gets packed and what gets left behind!

Stay tuned for more, and don’t forget to check out what the other PULSE volunteers are up to!


  1. Good luck with your PULSE assignment Colleen. I was in Kenya last year, and it was definitely a rewarding experience. Looking forward to reading your blog posts.

  2. Great post, thanks for the shout out. I’ll see you in Kigali in about two weeks. I’m really looking forward to our shared experience.

  3. Safe travels and all my best! You’re going to love it in Kigali and I can’t wait to hear about your work, the people, and your adventures! Do some crazy stuff so I can live vicariously through you 🙂

  4. I am so excited for you. I leave next week. I can’t wait. Best of luck. I know you will be fabulous. Maryanne:)

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