Stories from the Small Continent- Leaving Ireland

Hello friends & colleagues. This is the first installment of a blog that I will write during my 6 month PULSE assignment working for UNICEF Belgium in “The Small Continent” of Madagascar.

Leaving the Irish summer behind
Leaving the Irish summer behind

Based in the capital Antananarivo, I will work as a resource mobilisation fellow and will produce proposals aligned with UNICEF’s mission to seek funding activities in the country for maternal and neonatal health as well as for vaccinations.


Tomorrow I fly to ‘Tana” and will leave behind the wind and the rain (and that’s just the Irish summer!) for a sunny six months off the eastern coast of Africa. Not including penguins, the population of this island (the fourth largest in the world) in the Indian Ocean is 21 million. It The official language is Malalgasy but French is also widely spoken and I’ll have no choice but to much improve my French during my assignment.

2nd Generation Ladies in Cork
2nd Generation Ladies in Cork

It’s been a busy few months for me planning for Madagascar; sorting out vaccinations, visas, accommodation, and travel, not to mention my day job. I also got the keys to my first house last week and I could write a separate blog about that! A couple of weeks ago, I discovered that the restructuring program taking place in R&D was going to affect me personally. The activities of my team based in the Cork GMS site will be centralised and my role as a Chemist in 2nd Generation, Product Development, is being eliminated so my department will no longer exist when I return from my assignment. Although this news came as a bit of a shock, I see it as an opportunity for me to evaluate where I would like to take my career and my life in general.

I am very grateful that the GSK PULSE programme has given me this once in a lifetime opportunity to work with UNICEF and become a catalyst for change. I look forward to bringing about sustainable improvements to communities in Madagascar as well as developing myself personally and professionally. I will return to Ireland in the spring with new insights and perspectives that I can share with you all, as well as a nice golden tan.

Until next time,



  1. Best of luck at UNICEF. The Pulse program really is a once in a lifetime experience. I am so grateful for my assignment and be able to help create a sustainable change. On a side note, I am 100% Irish and my family immigrated from Cork. I absolutely love Ireland. I look forward to watching your journey. Best of luck!

  2. Wishing you lots of adventure and luck in Madagascar Joanne and can’t wait to hear your next blog installment when you make it to the island!

  3. Safe travels Joanne and I hope for first few days go well. Look forward to hearing how you get on soon. As our first ever PULSE volunteer in Madagascar, you’re another one that is pushing our PULSE boundaries!

  4. Hi Joanne, the announcement of the removal of your job at GSK is certainly disturbing but this should give you positive energy to firstly live out this unique experience at UNICEF Madagascar and also to consider a different career pursuit!
    All the best for this wonderfull experience and looking forward to hear from your exciting adventure 😉 Best wishes. Laure

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s