Like a lot of volunteers, I did my research ahead of time. On the history, the climate, the healthcare system, the greatest challenges facing the poor.
“I came open,” said one of my fellow volunteers. “Open to help, to do what I need to do, open to the experience.”
Now that I’ve been at the HOPE Centre healthcare clinic located in Zandspruit, an informal settlement in Johannesburg, South Africa, I see that as the better approach. The HOPE Centre provides treatment and education to local residents about health issues, especially diabetes and hypertension.
Unfortunately, openness still won’t protect you from the shock of seeing thousands of shacks leaning against each other for support, sewage running through the streets, and limited access to basic healthcare, water and electricity. But openness will keep you from being overwhelmed by the magnitude of need. It can actually focus you on the small – but critically important role -- part you play in improving the conditions that day…and hopefully beyond.
At the HOPE Centre, our team of 10 volunteers from Eli Lilly and Company includes medical doctors, pharmacists, diabetes educators, and communication specialists. We are helping conduct diabetes health screenings, improve patient understanding of chronic diseases and medication compliance, and support nutrition education and peer educator training.
It’s a lot to accomplish in two weeks. And it’s still not nearly time enough to meet the needs of patients living in these conditions. But we’re open to what we need to accomplish today. We’re open to the experience. We’re open to making a small difference, however we can, today. And we’re open to the possibility that through the great work of Project HOPE and Lilly, we can collectively make a big difference in the years to come.
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