June 22

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Bridin’s blog- first days in Kigali

I have just begun a real adventure on a PULSE assignment in Kigali, Rwanda. The PULSE Volunteer Partnership is GSK’s skills-based volunteering initiative. Employees are matched to a non-profit organisation for 3 or 6 months full-time, contributing their skills to solve healthcare challenges at home and abroad. I have been assigned to work with an organisation called Jhpiego on the Maternal and Child Survival Program in Rwanda. I feel very fortunate to be given this opportunity by GSK and am very grateful to my department to release me for 6 months. I hope that during my time in Rwanda I will meet Jhpiego’s expectations and make a positive contribution to the Maternal and Child Survival Program.

Getting ready to leave for my PULSE assignment was pretty busy and a little stressful (this is my excuse for not sending my first blog before leaving!) Packing for 6 months is hard! Six months supplies of contact lens, make up…. I had so many dilemmas of what to take and had to reluctantly removed a few items, mainly shoes and toiletries. Closing my suitcase was still a struggle, small incident of the zip bursting a few hours before leaving… but with the help of a few friends, I was on the way to the airport with a new slightly roomier suitcase on time. I arrived at Heathrow looking like the bag lady, I have never had so much hand luggage boarding a flight (photos not included)! The airline thankfully didn’t charge for my excess luggage.

I arrived at Kigali Airport early Saturday morning got my first sightings of the country of a thousand hills, it really is a beautiful country. The drive from the airport was fascinating. I was struck by the number of people out walking, dressed in beautifully bright clothing and by the huge number of scooters weaving in and out of the traffic. Also, I actually got a glimpse of the president driving his own car!

I’m very lucky to have a few fellow PULSE colleagues, Robin and Tamsin, in Kigali for the weekend and part of this week. We’ve been able to explore the city together. We’ve had a few nice meals and love the food! My first cup of African tea was a surprise, it came with the milk and sugar already added in the tea pot, delicious, I have been drinking it every morning since. The avocado and tomatoes are great as are the bananas and passion fruit. And as a person who is fond of carbs, potatoes and in particular chips are really good!

Work started on Monday and received a very warm welcome. This week I am getting familiar with the area I will be working in and enjoying meeting my new colleagues. I’m also working learn a few words of Kinyarwanda and getting settled with accommodation, local phone etc.

I have photos, but am having difficulty loading and will plan to do so very soon :).