Lusaka: my first month
(Kind of) Brief Introduction
For those who don’t know, I will be in Zambia for 6 months as a GSK Pulse Volunteer. Pulse is a GSK’s skills-based volunteering initiative: through Pulse motivated employees are matched to a non-profit organisation where their skills are needed to help solving healthcare challenges. This year, all Pulse Volunteer assignments are aligned with Goal 3 and Goal 4 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) translate into 17 goals the ambition to end poverty, hunger, inequality, promote education and prosperity and protect the Earth’s natural resources by 2030. In particular, Goal 3 – “Good Health” – has a specific focus on ensuring health and well being for all and Goal 4 – “Good Education” – ensures “inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”.
As such, I started working more than one month ago on a Social Enterprise, Live Well (LW), which stems from a collaboration between NGO CARE International and Barclays/GSK Partnership. Live Well recruits, trains and supports community agents to sell health impact products into underserved communities in Zambia. It has a dual mission:
– Increase access to healthcare and raise awareness of health issues
– Promote employment, as agents will act as entrepreneur and be able to sustain themselves
My first month
Zambia? This was my first reaction when I got to know this was the country I had been assigned to, despite the fact Zambia is just a little bit smaller than UK and France combined….how can this possibly be, it looks so tiny in the map!
I arrived here expecting to find a very chaotic city, something in the middle between Rome and Mumbai (those of you who are proper travellers could have found a more specific example, so apologies for my vagueness here) instead I was surprised to see very clean roads, disciplined drivers and big green spaces. As I was expecting, Zambians are very hospitable, respectful and happy people despite lack of resources: coming to the office is a real pleasure as I am surrounded by smiley faces and warm hearts!
My first month was mainly based in the office, having financial skills the area I am expected to focus on the financial model. However, I had the chance to visit the field twice and this is when the vision behind the creation of Live Well came to life to me.
My first field visit was in George compound, Lusaka, for the re-stocking of agents. This was held in the hospital grounds which I had the impression worked also as a social hub, a sort of meeting point for the community. The agents came and were mainly women, this made me think that an indirect impact of LW is empowering women: they looked so proud of making a change and at the same time gain some financial independence! During this visit, I also had the chance to attend for a few minutes a training session and this is where the pics below were taken.
My second field visit was in Kampekete, Chongwe (40 Kms away from Lusaka). When I first was given an overview of what Live Well does, I was told that if you live in a rural community in Zambia you will have to walk miles to reach the first hospital to find they have run out of stock. To be honest, I was really undervaluing this “walking for miles” till I was given the chance to visit two households in Kampekete and really appreciate how far away they live from any hospital/pharmacy and how hard the walk can be considering there is little or no shelter from burning sun (or pouring rain if in the rainy season).
This is all for me now…..to be continued!!