May 24

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The Journey Begins ….

Actually the journey began four months ago, back in January, when the Pulse1 email came out saying ‘The application deadline is nearly here!’. Did you know the origin of the term ‘deadline’ is from prison parlance? It’s a line on the floor a few meters away from the wall or fence and if you cross it, then something bad happens!  Anyway, I had been interested in reading the blogs from adventurous GSK Pulse volunteers who were doing really worthy things, in really interesting places, and hadn’t seriously considered it for myself.  Then in a moment, a sparking synapse, I thought hang on! Why not!  I mentioned it to my wife and she said “6 months is a tiny fraction of a lifetime, and it’s such an amazing opportunity, so go for it”. So next I approached my head of department and manager, and they were nothing but enthusiastic and encouraging.

So I applied and beat the deadline – nothing bad happened, but instead something exciting started to happen – EL1 (Excitement level 1).

Excitement Levels (EL#) go from 1 to 10. Where 1 is butterflies in the tummy and 10 jumping around the room doing victory punches in the air.

After going through various stages of approval I was very fortunate to be matched with an INGO (International Not for Profit Organisation) called PATH2 – EL3.  We arranged a phone call to discuss the assignment and agree, or not, if we think their project requirements are aligned with my core skills?  They were phew – EL4!

The assignment is based around scaling up, and refining, a low cost solution for the pasteurisation of breast milk, for human milk banks in developing countries where it will be used by underweight and premature babies. The development work will be done in Seattle, US, with field trips to South Africa and India.

So after taking part in a few online training sessions I attend a three day Pulse Orientation and ADP training course. This is where you meet other volunteers who are experiencing a mix of nerves, about delivering their assignment, and excitement about launching themselves into the almost unknown – EL5!  This is where the Pulse Team does their magic.  The Pulse initiative has been going since 2009, sending groups of GSK volunteers on assignment each year. Between then and now the program has been refined and fine-tuned into a slick, professional machine.  The confident and passionate delivery from the Pulse Team, on the training days, had a reassuring and calming effect – EL4 just!

At this point I am in my last week of work with GSK, trying to clear the decks of outstanding reports, looking forward to the next stage of the journey and to working with the PATH team. I am also conscious that I will miss my family and friends (in and out of work), but it is a wonderful opportunity – EL7!!

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  1. The PULSE Volunteer Partnership is GSK’s flagship skills-based volunteering initiative. Through PULSE, employees are matched to a non-profit organisation for three or six months full-time, contributing their skills to help solve healthcare challenges at home and abroad. Our employees lend the same expertise that they have been applying in their GSK roles in order to help our non-profit partners.
  2. PATH is the leader in global health innovation. An international non profit organization, we save lives and improve health, especially among women and children. We accelerate innovation across five platforms— vaccines, drugs, diagnostics, devices, and system and service innovations—that harness our entrepreneurial insight, scientific and public health expertise, and passion for health equity. By mobilizing partners around the world, we take innovation to scale, working alongside countries primarily in Africa and Asia to tackle their greatest health needs. Together, we deliver measurable results that disrupt the cycle of poor health.