Now is the rainy season in Singapore; as it is wet and slightly cold, it is a perfect day to clear and arrange my thoughts for 2018. I am overwhelmed with all the changes and new information. At times, I feel like I am standing at the beach during the high tides. Before you know it, the sea water is already close to your head level. I keep reminding myself – I have to be open-minded, practice active listening and not jump to the conclusion. While I was gone in the last 6 months, GSK is changing as well. It is much more difficult for the PULSE landing than the departure.
Nonetheless, I think 6 months is a good duration for PULSE; it is long enough to complete an assignment (it has to be well defined scope and objective!) in the NGO. At the same time, you are not away too long from your core job function in GSK.
What I have achieved in the last 6 months in urban programming? Did I make the world a better place for children? I hope I did in a very small extent and in my own way. But for sure, I have changed myself to see things from a different perspective and remind myself to not take things for granted in life. We really have won the birth lottery in life; we really have. We don’t need to worry about food and water, a place that we call home to protect us regardless of rain or shine, and schools for us to learn. How many children in the world are excluded from all these? I have to use the word “excluded” because there is a huge disparity between poor and rich in urban area. There are 69% of the developing world’s urban poor living in Asia. In the next 30 years, 2/3 of the population will live in an urban area, and mainly in Asia. This is my PULSE assignment’s objective: focus on the urban program in Asia region.
How does a person who has no clue about urban program begin to manage the program in Asia region? Honestly, I was pretty stressed out in the beginning. Urban program manager is a huge title for me especially since I have no prior experience with humanitarian work — my background is in science and my role with GSK is a manufacturing manager. Being such a technical person in pharmaceutical industry, my role has completely changed in the last 6 months. I was given some materials to start reading, and continued to conduct focused online and top line researches on urban programming including literature review internally within Save the Children or other NGOs or donor projects. Mostly all this research helped me to further understand the urban programming in this region – what are the common challenges and the data associated with their urban programming. All this information has provided me an important foundation in urban programming while I continued to clarify any doubts with my Save’s colleagues.
Taking on a regional role in Save the Children by working in the urban program also has given me the opportunity to visit Philippines, Bangladesh and India, where I have not traveled to before. These three countries are very different in term of people, cultures, religious and languages but the children are facing the same challenges in urban. At the same time, I have the pleasure to meet people with great passion to help children in their countries live a better life. Through researching the urban programs from different countries, we have further enriched the knowledge on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of mobilizing communities in urban areas. I have shared my research study back to the Luzon Program office in Manila, Philippines where I spent most of my time with the community mobilizers, Save the Children regional office in Singapore and most importantly with the participants from different Asia regions in Asia Urban Roundtable II (AURT II) meeting. AURT II was my first ever planned regional meeting. I led the weekly Asia Urban Steering Group meeting to craft out the AURT II Agenda. It was not easy because all the steering members were located in different countries and this event was located in New Delhi, India but I was based in Philippines. Good collaborative skill and trusting relationship were keys for the success. I was relieved and thrilled when the 3 days AURT II were finally over and it was very well received by the participants.
Aside from work, I met many new people before starting my PULSE journey, such as other GSK colleagues who share the same passion during the orientation week in Japan. During my PULSE journey, I also got to know my job+ coach (S*), Save The Children colleagues, GSK Pulse Volunteers from US who also based in Philippines (Daniel and Nandita), volunteers, teachers, principals, barangay Captain, Government officials etc. Although my PULSE journey is over now, I know our friendships are longer than this — thank you for being part of my life.
This is really what the PULSE assignment is for: challenge your change agility and move you out of the comfort zone. Looking back at the last 6 months, the challenges that I faced seem very small once I overcame them – What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger! This Kelly you see now is a different Kelly from 6 months ago!
Let’s work together to give the children in the world a better future so that they are able to enjoy the sunset like us. It starts with a small step from all of us.