Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Be the Change

Come October, I’ll be moving to Ghana for 6 months as a volunteer in the GSK PULSE Program. This story begins with an announcement from our CEO at GlaxoSmithKline, Andrew Witty, in the internal end-of-year broadcast in December 2008. Here’s how our corporate PR folks summarize the program that Witty created: “Launched in April 2009, PULSE is GSK’s new initiative that empowers employees to make a significant difference in impoverished communities, at home or abroad. Transformational change can happen when employees use, share and pass on their professional skills and knowledge during a 3 or 6 month immersion experience within a non-profit or non-governmental organisation (NGO). Volunteers address a clear NGO need whilst developing their own leadership capabilities.”

The overview of my assignment:
“The Millennium Cities Initiative is involved in a partnership with Ericsson and Zain, the global communications firms, to connect junior high schools in Kumasi, Ghana, and soon, in Accra, Ghana, to the Internet. The City of Kumasi is donating the computers, and the communications firms are setting up the Internet connections and carrying out basic training with the teachers at the participating schools. MCI, together with Teachers College, is developing and furnishing a curriculum focused on the uses of the Internet to strengthen instruction in science, math, technology, literacy and issues of global interest.”

We're still working out exactly what I'll be doing, but the idea of this assignment is a great fit for my many years of involvement in promoting STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) career paths to middle and high school students, especially underrepresented groups.

If you’d like more details on the PULSE program, there’s information at http://www.gsk.com/community/employee_involvement.htm and http://www.gsk.com/responsibility/our-people/developing-our-people.htm
and a video at http://www.gsk.com/careers/pulse.htm.

I'll keep posting in the months leading up to my assignment, as well as when I'm overseas.

Going... Going... Ghana

On Saturday, I met friends at a local sports bar to watch the US-Ghana World Cup game. Your typical game-day experience, but with the added bonus of about 15-20 boisterous Ghanaians cheering for their team (Ghana Black Stars). Their enthusiasm started with a rousing rendition of their national anthem at the start of the game and continued for the entire game. They started a few "USA" chants a various points in the game. They may have cheered for the US team more than all the Americans did.

Post-game, Janssen and I went over to congratulate them on the win. When Janssen mentioned that I’ll be moving to Ghana for a few months, I was greeted with a shout of “Sister!” and given a brotherly, pat-on-the-back hugs. The Ghanaian fans encouraged us to take pictures with their flag and seemed genuinely excited to share their joy with us.

In my other experiences meeting Ghanaians (primarily my co-worker Kirby and his friends and family), I have found them to be just as friendly.

If the Ghanaians who haven't left the country are even half as welcoming as the ones that have, I think I’m going to like it there.