July 16

DOING and LEARNING in Eswatini — PREPARING

Bags are Packed

PREPARING for my assignment in Eswatini did not start with the logistical and physical activities of organizing and packing my two purple checked bags (49.5-pound a piece).  The GSK PULSE volunteer program is neither a package tour nor a corporate assignment.  Before my departure for Eswatini, I was responsible for preparing all aspects of my deployment: the required, the useful, and the critical. Packing my baggage was the last step in preparing for the assignment.

I did not need to guess what was required, or predict what would be useful during my assignment. With the assignment came new and reinforced support networks.  My GSK PULSE team contact and my PULSE Buddy, a previous PULSE volunteer in Eswatini, plus my future supervisor at the NGO became a new support network.  They gave of their time and shared their knowledge, experience, and enthusiasm for Eswatini and my assignment.  As part of their assistance, they shared useful and valuable details about accommodations, visa documentation, and power interruptions.  My PULSE Buddy also gave me chocolate almond bark and snack bars for me to deliver to her former teammates (my new colleagues).

Preparing for the assignment also reinforced my existing social and emotional networks, as I received enthusiastic notes, goodbye celebrations, and statements of respect mixed with some disbelief. My manger and work team created a smooth and effective transition of responsibilities.  My friends wished me well, and my children expressed their enthusiastic support and pride.

The creation of new network contacts and the reinforcement of my existing relations has been the critical element in PREPARING for my GSK PULSE assignment in Eswatini. Their advice to bring a headlamp will brighten any power outage.  I will also recall their support on sunny days, when I may be doubting my effectiveness as a volunteer.  After PREPARING physically and emotionally, I am ANTICIPATING my assignment with great enthusiasm.

Key words: PREPARING DOING LEARNING GSK PULSE Eswatini Swaziland PrEP Networks