Don’t Die Wondering

Don’t Die Wondering!

That was my late Father’s life motto. Don’t die wondering “what if I had…” and it was instilled in me from childhood. The other motto was from my father’s best friend saying“Can do/Go do Good”, and together these words shaped my world.

My earliest adventures in volunteering where at the heels of my parents who instilled a strong sense that we’re all part of a larger, global community, and that if able, we have a responsibility to give back to that community in some way.

My first professional opportunity to volunteer was as a US Peace Corps Volunteer in Kinshasa, Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo). At the time, Zaire had a high attrition rate for foreign aid workers, but for those who made it through the first 2 years, they were hooked. Post Peace Corps I joined the US Agency for International Development as a Project Manager on an infrastructure project and stayed another 3 years. I share this photo because it was from my first official ID card in Zaire, it keeps me humble and shows my excitement going in – yes, I owned that perm! I’m even more excited now about the PULSE opportunity but luckily I’ve lost the perm (but not my sense of humor).

Missy PC

I was a relatively new employee to GSK when Sir Andrew Witty, then GSK CEO, made the announcement that there would be a new opportunity for GSK employees to volunteer in skills based ways with non-profit health care organizations. I put it on my radar, then later in my development plan, and then after many discussions with previous PULSE volunteers, my leadership team, and my family, I was determined to apply for the 2018 class.

The day I received my PULSE nomination it was like opening-up your first-choice college acceptance letter. I was matched to an international not for profit public health agency work as a Technical Advisor/Pulse Volunteer in Vientiane, Laos. I knew what an incredible opportunity was ahead of me, and as much I knew going in, that there will be more than I can imagine when I arrive in country. I find myself asking how will I give back, how will I be changed, what will I bring back to contribute to GSK, and remind myself to always expect the unexpected.

During our training at GSK House in London, I was amazed at the incredible 10th PULSE class I’m proud to call my PULSE family. Not only did each incoming PULSE volunteer have an amazing story to tell, we heard from previous PULSE volunteers and GSK staff that were there to help prepare us, show us the way, knowing that we’d make our way and make our mark as we moved forward.  So many different people that were made one by a common mission, the desire to give back. We came in as strangers and left as part of the PULSE family.

I hope you’ll follow my journey through my blog as you make your own mark on your community and volunteer when and where you can. There’s no contribution of your time too small to make great impact on those in need.

Thank you to my My-Mother-The-Texan, Joan, who at 86 is still travelling the world and is already working on her trip to visit me. Thank you to my loving husband, Peter, who encouraged me to take this step and follow my dream.

Missy Peter Burma

Photo Bagan, Myanmar, Nov 2017



  1. Congratulations Helen! In your first few paragraphs, I thought I was reading about myself … as I followed that very same track of US Peace Corps, Zaire to USAID Kinshasa totalling Five full years living and working in the Congo … I totally agree with you that those two experiences were only the tip of the iceberg to a lifetime of giving back … I am so happy (and jealous) for you regarding this new opportunity with PULSE … it should be the beginning of a wonderful adventure in Laos, giving back what you yourself have learned through the years … I wish you great luck in this new advenure … and yes, do keep us apprised of the evolution of things via your blog. Regards, Brian Therrien

  2. So very proud of you Helen. I will miss you terribly that 6 months but I’m so excited for my friend to have this opportunity. Safe travels and Congratulations

  3. Helen – very much enjoyed your first blog post & cant wait to follow your journey! So excited for you & the good work you will do.


  4. Helen!!! I miss you!! This was a great blog! I had NO idea you worked with the Peace Corp. How cool! Have you read Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver? It’s about the Congo. I’m sure you’ve already read it. If not, let me know and I’ll mail you my copy with a care package. So glad to see you here!

  5. Helen, from Chicago, going to Laos! 🙂 Love your 1st post, and can’t wait to read more! So proud of our PULSE family, and knowing you will accomplish great things.

  6. Loved your post Helen & that pic of yours is so cool! Loved what you said about ….. “there’s no contribution of your time too small to make great impact on those in need!” All the best, Manu.

  7. Lovely history of your volunteer life! Keep going and making difference on our lives. Hope to see you soon, crossing the border of our assignment countries.

  8. I loved this post Helen, Chicago, CHAI, Laos. What a fantastic story you already have!Hope you have an incredible 6 months and keep in touch, I look forward to reading your next blog.

  9. On behalf of the many who have known you for many years I want to say how lucky we are to have you be an inspiration to us all. You are living your parents’ lessons in a continually generous way.

  10. what a wonderful post from the title till the end !
    can’t wait to read more of your journey and get inspired
    I can imagine how my 2019 resolutions will look like

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