When going through the process of becoming a Pulse Volunteer, I believe that most were focused on location. That is natural. It could be so different from home that it causes the most anxiety. Next was the organization we would be supporting. I am betting that most were not concerned about the actual assignments until the first day of work in their new countries. I can assure you that was me. Location, organization and then distantly the actual work. I believe it is natural and there is an internal belief that we can do a good job no matter the assignments and we will be happy to help in any way possible.
What I now believe is that in the matching week for the Pulse Global team, the assignments were vital. The actual skill sets needed to accomplish the assignments, I believe, was top priority. This is just my assumption of course. Either way I do not believe the Pulse team could have matched me any better than with Path and the projects I am doing. Here is the example that I have been trying to figure out the words for. I hope I do it justice.
As an openly gay man, there are struggles in life. It comes from various aspects from society and also from within. Being an openly gay employee at GSK has not always been the easiest. There is a lot of open bias toward me and there is even more unconscious bias towards me. I never take offense and just hope the more people I work with that I will give them positive attitude toward more gay people. In the end my life is pretty good and I try not to complain.
I was matched with Path on their HIV projects in Vietnam. Sounds worthy enough. I was excited no matter what. At the end of my first week, they asked me to travel to Vinh City in Central Vietnam to work with two Community Based Organizations (CBO’s) and watch a promotional meeting for a new brand of condom that I am helping create a marketing campaign for. We work with several key populations. One of them being MSM (men seeking sex with men). So basically the gay population for the most part. In Vinh City, they have already launched the brand of condom and it is being marketed to this key population. Two of the CBO’s I am meeting with are open gay men that help distribute these condoms (don’t think for free. These are community businesses that are trying to help their members make money to live and for advocacy projects). My objectives for the meeting was learn what is working well, barriers and they had requested a sales training on basic sales techniques.
Of course I had an interpreter because I so don’t speak Vietnamese (I butcher English just fine thank you). I had her start the meeting by letting them know I am MSM as well (there is no word for gay here). I told them I was there to learn a lot from them and I hope they could learn just a tad from me. You could tell that they were not expecting this. That someone, me, was there and I identified with them. That simple act of identification was so vital for the rest of my training. I believe that the training was more impactful and they were paying more attention because of it. What it also did was have an impact on me. This was not just helping some no faced person in a city you don’t know. Here I am in the field. Meeting the people that I will directly impact. People like me. People that want to make a difference for their kind in their country. People that want to stop the spread of HIV. People that want safe sex practices implemented. People that want the latest in testing and medications. People that are bright ,funny, intelligent and passionate. A simple act of identifying with someone can go a long way. I honestly never realized how far it could go.
So I want to openly thank the matching team for Pulse. I thought this would change my life. Now I am certain and I look forward to every change that comes.