I’ve been in Rwanda for a week now, trying to find the time, my voice and my nerve to write my first-ever blog. So, here it goes!! The crazy-hectic, emotionally-charged, scary, anxiety-ridden weeks leading up to my departure are behind me now. At times it felt like June 16th would never come and I have to give my deepest thanks to my family, friends and colleagues who cheered me on, held my hand through it all, and gave me a grand send-off.
I especially want to thank my husband, Carlton, who was excited about the opportunity from its very first mention. Everyone asked “What about your husband!?!?” Well, he already booked his ticket to visit and our friends have promised to look after him — even though he is quite self-sufficient! To everyone, thank you, thank you, thank you!!
A little bit about how I got here: Through GSK’s skills-based volunteer program, PULSE, I was matched with Partners-in-Health/Inshuti Mu Buzima (PIH/IMB) in Rwanda for a six-month assignment. The short version of PIH’s mission statement (www.pih.org) is: “We go. We make house calls. We build health systems. We stay.” My specific assignment is still being scoped, but will largely focus on strategic HR planning related to talent acquisition, retention and management.
Now, my first thoughts of Rwanda: The country is future-focused, remarkably clean and exceptionally beautiful!! On our first day, we (PULSE volunteers) were warmly welcomed by our Rwanda-based colleague and made to feel part of the GSK family here. On day two in Kigali, I visited the Genocide Memorial — a reminder of a tragic and horrific part of Rwanda’s history that I wanted to know more about. It’s incredible to think how far this country and its people have come in such a short time.
My introduction to PIH has been a whirlwind! It’s an extraordinary organization with talented, passionate people. This week my time was split between Kigali and two rural districts, each a couple of hours away. I’ve visited the homes of some of the poorest Rwandans. I had a chance to hear the Minister of Health speak. I was inspired by her demand for innovation, commitment, and laser focus on building Rwandan capabilities for now and the future. PIH/IMB is a true partner in that vision. I read about Rwanda and talked to people who’d been to this country, but it’s never quite like the first-hand experience of being here!
I am excited about what lies ahead. . .stay tuned . . .