‘It’s in your hands to make a difference’ – Nelson Mandela

I begin this first blog with thoughts of the ‘Cradle of Humankind’ outside Johannesburg (Maropeng), South Africa. In the native language of Setswana, the name means ‘returning to the place of origin’ and this is where I first learned about Africa and one the most genetically diverse people on Earth.  Africa has 3000 distinct ethnic groups, and over 2000 languages and it was on my first trip to Joburg that I fell in love with Africa and its’ people.  Whilst I have travelled across Africa for work and pleasure, these trips have been for short periods of time.  When I applied for PULSE I really wanted to be the change I wanted to see in the world.  I had no idea the opportunity that was about to present itself.  I have been provided the chance to volunteer for the Malaria Consortium (ok) in Abuja, Nigeria (….what/where?)

When I got over the initial shock, I realised that this experience will allow me to use my technical and leadership skills, along with flexible thinking to develop creative ways to support the Malaria Consortium in a country most people only read about. I will personally be challenged to think differently about the world through the eyes of a non-profit.   Along the way I hope to be a ‘change’ for the community, to ‘change’ myself and bring ‘change’ back to GSK – it is in my hands to make the difference I want to see.

The PULSE Volunteer Partnership is GlaxoSmithKline’s skills-based volunteering initiative. Through PULSE, motivated employees are matched to a non-profit organisation for 6 months full-time, contributing their skills to solve challenges either at home and abroad.  Since its launch in 2009, PULSE has empowered nearly 400 employees from across 45 different countries to work with 85 NGOs in 56 countries.

Personally – I am from the US working for GSK as an Internal Auditor based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. I have been given great opportunities over the 30 years with this company.  My current job as an auditor allows me to travel the world, meet people, and appreciate that collectively we are part of something bigger – we all contribute in some way to the GSK Mission to ‘do more, feel better and live longer’.

I begin my assignment in July as an Internal Auditor, and whilst at the outset start in London with an orientation with the Malaria Consortium; I will immediately head out to Africa and begin my assignment. My immediate family back home in Raleigh has been supportive throughout this process and will keep the home fires burning and follow, like you, this blog which will document the experience, the food, the people and friendships I will make along the way.  I really look forward to working with my new colleagues in Nigeria and the wider PULSE family.

So where am I in the journey? It seems like the process never really ends but has been a continuation since I first hit the application submit button in December 2016.  The paperwork for my Visas has been completed, my international certificate of vaccinations is up-to-date and I have malaria meds to last the entire trip!  I met some great co-workers (albeit virtually) also heading to Abuja who are in the process of securing their own Visas.  I’ve heard their stories and look forward to sharing a flat upon arrival in Africa.  I am finishing up my ‘day’ job here in the office before I take holiday and visit with family and friends as it will be a few months before my midway trip home.  Overall things are moving more quickly now that we are getting close to departure.

Apprehensive? Absolutely!  Who wouldn’t be — but at the same time I am excited for this experience.

As my ‘sister’ Anne Marie from Nairobi once told me – when you come to Africa you are coming home.

As they say in Nigeria “You’re welcome” which means ‘Good Morning/Good Afternoon, Goodnight, See you later’ – and in a way….’welcome home’


  1. Good Luck Robert…..I completed my PULSE assignment last year. It will go by fast, you will open a new chapter in your life with new friends, tastes, sights, smells…but enjoy every moment. Look forward to following your blog.’

  2. What wonderful reflections, Robert! I can feel your sincere excitement and apprehension through your words. It seems like all the logistics are in place for you and now it’s down to getting on that plane and starting this big adventure in your life! Looking forward to following your journey as you bring us along with you through your blogs! Hopefully snake bites and food poisoning aren’t part of the experiences because you’ve crossed them off your list already! 🙂 All the very best!!

  3. What a fantastic adventure and a great opportunity. You will make a great contribution and a difference. Good luck Robert, and I look forward to following your blog.

  4. Good luck Robert! I wish you all the best in your exciting adventure and I hope to learn from your experiences when you get back. I’ll be sure to follow your blog too…have a good one! 🙂

  5. Loved reading this Robert!! I’m already really excited to follow your journey and we will definitely stay in touch : )

  6. Hope you can change some lives forever, but surely the people that are living an unfortunate health situation in Nigeria will appreciate your great effort for a better home/world.
    All the best for you in this experience,

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