PULSE volunteer, Kenya
The PULSE Volunteer programme is GSK’s flagship skills-based volunteering initiative. Launched in 2009, PULSE serves as a matchmaker for GSK and the non-profit sector – connecting the skills of our high-performing employees with the pressing needs of our non-profit partners. Here, PULSE volunteer, Mizanul Islam shares his experience of working with Save the Children in Bungoma County, Kenya.
The PULSE programme has enabled nearly 500 of our employees across 51 different countries to work with 92 non-profit partners in 61 countries.
I volunteered for PULSE because, living in Bangladesh and working for a company like GSK I understand healthcare challenges that affect deprived communities. I felt the need to contribute to society and help improve people’s lives.
The aim of my six-month PULSE assignment was to help accelerate the reduction in maternal and newborn mortality in Bungoma County, Kenya. One of Kenya’s 47 counties, Bungoma has some of the highest number of child deaths in the entire country. My job was to work with Save the Children to address supply chain issues for the healthcare services – making sure the right medicines are in stock and available.
Save the Children launched the GSK-funded BORESHA project in Bungoma in July 2014 to address the area’s high newborn and maternal mortality rate. Communities lacked confidence in the county’s hospitals and health centres. Those that made the long journeys, sometimes on foot, were often disappointed to find that centres had either run out of most essential medicines and healthcare products, or simply didn’t have the necessary facilities.
I began my assignment by visiting many health facilities, some of which were in very remote areas. I spoke to government health officials ranging from county Ministers and the Director of Health to grassroots-level people to understand their different challenges, analyse financial and budgetary information, and review their working methods to understand the gaps. Using GSK’s ADP (Accelerated Delivery and Performance) tools, I diagnosed the medical supply chain to identify the root causes ailing the system. I then designed a workable plan to improve the situation. Although initially the local authorities were resistant to my enquiries, they began to understand how I could help and appreciated the proposed plan.
It was difficult adjusting to life in Kenya; my first few days were very tough. I was in a remote area, with nobody to talk to, no home comforts, and I missed my family in Bangladesh terribly – my wife, my two-year-old daughter, Ajreen, and four-year-old son, Ajmaeen. On Ajreen’s third birthday in January I was in Kenya, and when I Skyped home she told me she would not touch any of her birthday cake until I returned home in early March!
But despite these personal hardships, working with Save the Children gave me so much – the opportunity to learn how to adapt to a new culture, new language, different food and a challenging environment. I learned to be resilient and that gave me strength. My PULSE assignment included fun times, team building days that were full of laughter. I gained a once in a lifetime experience.
How many organisations give their employees the opportunity to work for six months on full pay helping a community? The PULSE programme shows the contribution GSK is making to world communities beyond any business reasons. I’m really proud to see the difference our company and Save the Children are making together in Kenya – improving the healthcare provision to help save the lives of mothers and their children.