Every year the birds from Europe start their long journey to the hot lands of Africa looking to escape from the cold winter. They pass through several main flyways between the continents. Discovered by Aristotle during ancient times Via Aristotelis (Aristotelian Path) is one of them.
GSK also has its own birds called… PULSE volunteers. Their migration usually starts between June and September for 3 to 6 months via various routes across the globe.
My name is Venelin and I will soon fly from Bulgaria through Via Aristotelis to the land of Nigeria. I am on a six months assignment working for Clinton Health Access Initiative organization. My task is to conduct supply chain analysis on the local ACT (Artemisinin based Combination Therapy) market and assess the readiness of the local manufacturers to cover the demand. Sounds like a good challenge, isn’t it?
If I rewind the tape, the time from December 2016 when I applied until today when I am few days from departure was quite a journey on its own. I had to pass through three interviews until I received the news end of April I am approved and the PULSE program offers me a project in Nigeria. First thing that came to my mind is Bulgaria lost two times from Nigeria in football in 1994 and 1998. My second thought was – yes, why not go and see how I can help these guys.
Every time I am engaged in new project I recall the above diagram. As a true Libra the hesitation is in my blood. After the enthusiasm in April I started reconsidering what’s going on and for short period fell a little down but got up quickly. Maybe because nobody from our office has done that before I felt I little alone in my endeavors. My buddy helped me with some information and then we’ve met with Vanina (2016 PULSE volunteer) who gave me real insight of what she went through and some practical hints for the program.
To be honest I didn’t expect the preparation for this trip to take so long and be that hard. I am a light packer who needs no more than 30 minutes to get all necessary things ready when traveling around the country or in Europe. Well, not for a trip in Africa. The main challenges were:
- Medications & vaccination – I’ve got 4 vaccines (against yellow fever, hepatitis A & B, polio and typhoid fever). The yellow fever one is mandatory, they don’t allow you to enter Nigeria if you don’t have it. I barely found Malarone as it turned out it’s not registered in Bulgaria and almost impossible to be found on the Balkan peninsula.
- Trainings – lots of online ones and one 3 days orientation training in Brussels which I really liked. Since we’re living in company corporate world this “orientation” as they call it was intended to get you know the NGO world, what to expect, what’s different there, what’s appropriate and lot of practical stuff given from a trainer with years of experience. As this was the mental preparation I think I wouldn’t feel lost if we’ve got this training a little earlier. We were small group heading mostly to Africa. I’d also like to thank the program trainers and facilitators – Lucas and Clement who made the event possible.
Definitely the part I hate most. With the globalization the world becomes such a village so it’s rather hard to stay alone than connected. I said goodbye to most of my friends, visited my favorite places for one last time and thought I am done with that. However, there was a surprise waiting for me in the office.
Our HR has wanted to say goodbye to me in a very specific manner by concealing my desk with posters. Then we’ve had short meeting for me and the GM to give a speech about the assignment. Maria, Joe – if you read these rows now be aware I really appreciate all efforts you put to organize this and especially the humor around it :). I received so much attention like never before and I suppose it was visible at the end I was not quite ready to cope with it.
I also received lots of presents. The customer service colleagues ambushed me half an hour before leaving the office with two survival kits. I don’t believe I will need the Bear Grills’ kit but as for the BG one – sorry but you know my eating habits, no food survives within my reach for a long time. Thank you Diliyana for the nice book, thank you again guys for making my last days so special, I enjoyed the creativity and your warm wishes!
And not to forget also special thanks goes to my fiancee and my managers who fully supported me from the beginning I decided to apply.
As I already have everything I need to follow Via Aristotelis tomorrow, next post will be straight from the heart of Nigeria in Abuja.