February 08

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Imprint the World By Giving Back

Well here we are!!! This is my final blog reflecting back on my incredible seven months in Asia. I really can’t believe how quickly it went by. Honestly, I virtually blinked and it was over. That’s how life is sometimes. We need to stop and enjoy every day because we won’t have another one exactly like it. You really could miss something wonderful!

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That’s one of the life lessons I took back. I was simply too busy in my prior stateside life to stop and enjoy the simple magical moments of everyday life. I realized I needed time for daily reflection. I am doing this now thru journaling and volunteering at an adoration chapel.

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My Pulse assignment was such an opportunity for personal and professional growth. Being away, I was able to be fully present in the moment without the distractions of daily life. No dogs were barking for a jog. No meows were heard to remind me I forgot to put food out. No homework needed to be checked. No husband wanting me to cook a feast for. I lived completely and vulnerably in the moment.

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It was an absolutely amazing experience. It was so exciting to be on the cutting edge of healthcare and helping to save lives everyday. The patient was always front and center in what I did, and that’s a powerful message I bring back to GSK. I think back to the beautiful smiles of the Filipino children and the hope in young teen mother’s eyes.

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Yes tears were shed. I held dying babies.

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I had to walk away from individuals I just couldn’t help. I pray for their plight and will continue to help in some capacity.

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I conquered my fear of heights.

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I REALLY did by climbing not one, but four intense mountain peaks.

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I also got to see eight Asian countries and experience so much culture. I saw two of the seven wonders of the world, like Ankor Wat in Cambodia, via elephant rides and intense stair climbs.

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Did I say I wasn’t afraid of heights anymore?

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I took my scuba diving skills to the next level. My boss, Mike McTernan, was not only a wonderful mentor at Save The Children, but under the sea as well. I logged 67 dives in the Philippines.

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This also involved getting my advanced scuba certification under his instruction after 30 years of diving.

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It was wonderful that so many got to take the journey with me through my writings and pictures. I didn’t realize just how much my posts meant to readers. Professionally, my work colleagues, accounts and mentors never missed a beat on how I was doing. Coming back, GSK is held in even higher regard in their eyes. Yes we work for a company that truly gives back to those who need it most. Patients are being helped to do more, feel better and love longer.

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I couldn’t have done my Pulse assignment without the support of so many wonderful people. I am most grateful for the support I received from my managers, directors and colleagues within GSK to enable this opportunity. So many reached out or sent me care packages. My supervisor, Nicole, kept in regular contact thru monthly Skype calls, as I kept her updated on my assignment. I am eternally grateful for being allowed this wonderful experience. I even got to eat cereal again after a several month drought. LOL. Thank you to Lori and my Carolinas’ team.

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My Pulse mentors were outstanding. Vivian, Barb and Courtney were there for me to bounce ideas off of and be my sounding board. Thanks to them I am pursuing my ADP facility and job plus coaching to other Pulse members.

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My husband, Ed, was so supportive. He took over being mom and dad with such ease. It really was a great bonding time for he and our son, Patrick, who have butted head at times thru those teen years. We kept in touch thru regular Skyping and my blog posts.

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I know how lonely my family was, but our home remained intact and my fur babies survived.  My better half’s parting gift was this substitute to cuddle with while we were apart. My pink teddy bear came in handy and had lots of visitors.

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I was blessed to have my family visit at the beginning and end of my assignment. My daughter witnessed how desperately young children try to catch fish without even poles so they can eat.

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I think this had a profound effect on each of them. Patrick still talks about meeting a boy his age and realizing how unfair life is.

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In that spirit, my husband and I have started the process of an Asian adoption. I wanted to bring every child home to give them a chance to thrive!

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Two wonderful friends also visited with me. These regular visitors from nine thousand miles away kept me grounded and less home sick.

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Yes, life did go on without me. This was the hardest part of being away. I missed the funeral of a dear friend’s father. Another very close friend was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer. I stayed as involved as possible, but there is no substitute for being there, which I could not be.

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I learned one of the most valuable secrets of life thru volunteering. Our self worth and imprint on the world is not defined by what we get from the world, but rather, in what we give back.

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I wrote this one night in my journal after a profound wow moment on Thanksgiving. It became my mission statement.

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I was in the field that day, feeling sorry for myself. Back home, everyone was eating turkey and watching football. I had neither. Realizing that I was homesick, one local invited me and a colleague over for dinner. We walked there and upon arrival saw a tiny house, barely upright. Once inside, the hospitality was overwhelming. The man sent his wife out to buy food. She returned with the finest fish, vegetables and fruit, preparing a grand feast. I quickly realized that this probably cost their entire month’s income. The table was only set for two. The couple wanted us to eat first, as the food may not be enough to feed all four of us. They were so joyful to serve us. I could barely eat. Tears rolled down my face. In that moment, I clearly realized the impact of serving others.

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The Philippines will always be my second home and part of my heart will remain there. I developed so many friends for life.

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Save really made me feel part of the family. I traveled with coworkers to their provinces and spent weekends with their families. I think I was unofficially adopted several times over, even attending family weddings.

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They taught me how to cook Filipino cuisine and eat many new things I never dreamed of.

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Who could forget teaching me how to kickbox? I learned to spar from champions.

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Opportunities arose to tape into my adrenaline junkie self and zip line over seven waterfalls and mountains.

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I met world leaders including the Filipino president, not to mention Obama, as he spoke at APEC.

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My faith was greatly deepened. I learned Tagalog and sang in a choir while there.

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Who knew my English skills could be put to good use in Asia. It was exciting to mentor Filipinos, serving as a Grammarian in a local Toastmaster club.

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My love of water translated into countless free lessons and many became good swimmers over the months I was there. In getting ready to leave, I had a memory book to capture messages from those I spent time with. I realized how easy it is to leave a life saving parting gift.

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There was no greater joy than volunteering with the SOS youth. These beautiful children and young adults became my adoptive children. We shared holidays together and cooked countless meals on Wednesday nights.

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I am most especially grateful for my GSK colleagues in The Makati office who have listened to my voice, been a source of great companionship, inspiration, excitement, and fantastic dinners.

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We build homes for typhoon victims together. No matter where you are in the world, the GSK spirit of volunteering is thriving.

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I am grateful beyond words for this amazing opportunity. I got to serve those poor children and families who needed it most in the most altruistic way. It’s so true that in volunteering you get back far more than you give. I learned, absorbed and assimilated in a new and wonderful culture.

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In closing, I cannot help but reflect on the long term impact Pulse has had on me. I believe more so than ever in being the change I seek to see in the world. Change begins with just one person. That person can be me or you. Believe in yourself and fight for what is right! Every day we take a step closer to changing our tomorrow. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by. I am coming back to GSK invigorated to help do just that.

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I just need to dig myself out of 38 inches of snow first. Clearly I am not in Asia anymore.image