It's good to be back home and in front of a laptop again.
Over the last two weeks, Russia was my home -- and my family was made up of orphans, hospitalized children, and more than a dozen other volunteers who traveled about 8,000 miles to see how we could help out. In reality, the volunteers probably gained more than we could ever give.
The program is called Connecting Hearts Abroad. Lilly partners with Cross Cultural Solutions to send roughly 200 employees each year to developing countries such as Russia, Thailand, Tanzania, and Brazil to learn more about the culture and provide support to people with few advantages in their lives. I was honored to spend several days at The Hospital for Sick Children (a facility for children with emotional challenges) and The Shelter (a transition facility for younger children about to become orphans).
The two facilities in Yaroslavl captured our hearts. The talks with program coordinators and facility leaders captured our minds as we learned more about the pros of Russia (love of country and modernization since the fall of communism) and the cons (a fairly high level of corruption).
The experiences cannot be adequately expressed in a mere few paragraphs. Our Connecting Hearts Abroad program, however, helps differentiate Lilly from the pack. Normally, we work day-in and day-out to find better treatments for patients and better public policies that can help make it happen. But a program like Connecting Hearts Abroad truly is a wake up call -- a reminder that even with our imperfect system, and our imperfect lives, we are indeed fortunate when we have our health and our families around us. It's not an automatic.
My two weeks in Yaroslavl were my first in Russia. I hope it won't be my last. The people, indeed, hold a very special place in my heart.