Bouncing through the low clouds on the final approach into Bogotá, after a journey of around 5500 miles, I was glued to the window desperate for a glimpse of the city I will call home for the next six months. Like all good surprises, Bogotá held onto the big reveal until the final moment – I was not disappointed. It’s a beautiful city, and situated at an altitude of 2640 metres above sea level, it’s the third highest capital city in South America – only La Paz and Quito are higher. The surrounding mountains give it an imposing presence and grace and a climate of its own – four seasons in one day. Coming from England, that makes me feel right at home already.
So this is the start of my journey as part of the GSK employee volunteer programme, PULSE. The programme, which began in 2009, matches motivated staff from across the company with non-profit organisations, based on skills and experience offered by GSK employees and needed by the charities. I feel incredibly privileged to be one of this year’s cohort. For the next six months, I’ll be working as part of the communications team at Save the Children Colombia; an independent organisation working to save children’s lives, fight for their rights, and help them fulfil their potential.
I have no idea what the next six months hold in store for me but it’s a challenge I am most definitely ready for. I’ve been overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of everyone I’ve spoken to about my little adventure; people who have connected me with someone they know in Colombia to help ease my transition into a new environment, a new language, a new culture.
Having arrived late last night, today I’ve been adopted by colleagues in the GSK Bogota office and could not have wished for a warmer Latino welcome!
There will be some tough times ahead, of that I’m sure, and hard work to do, but if this brief introduction to the people of Colombia is anything to go by, I know that I am up for the job and this is the place for me.
I’ll be sharing my experiences along with the important, and perhaps not so important, things I learn along the way. I hope you’ll indulge me as I do so.