Today’s guest blog is from Marina Hasson, a senior sales consultant with Lilly Canada and one of 10 Connecting Hearts Abroad ambassadors who depart this week for a 14-day service program with the Lilly NCD Partnership in Sonipat, India. A pharmacist by training, Marina will focus on advancing the goals of Project UDAY to help prevent, detect and reduce the risk of diabetes and hypertension within impoverished communities north of the country’s capital.
It happened late last year—a conversation with my husband and the oldest of my three sons. I revealed to them my greatest wish: to have time to be of service, to feel useful. Not just at work or at the home for single moms where I volunteer as a life coach, but somewhere far away—where people need a friend, a pharmacist, a mom such as myself. Shortly after that conversation, I applied and was selected to serve with Connecting Hearts Abroad.
This week, I depart on a 17-hour flight that will link Toronto, Canada, to New Delhi, India. I will officially become a global volunteer and game changer!
My long-awaited and dreamt-about service mission started in March. That’s when I began immersing myself in all things Indian—watching movies, tasting the spiciest of ethnic foods, and following travel blogs. As a sales rep, I even took advantage of my time in the car, listening to the riveting novel Shantaram with its incredible accents and descriptions of Indian life. I’ve never enjoyed rush-hour traffic more!
But my excitement skyrocketed when I had my first call to learn about my service assignment. Alongside a Lilly colleague from Germany, I’ll be taking a look at plans and materials used with Project UDAY, their impact on health-related behaviors and other health measures. We’ll also work with local pharmacists to help improve patients’ management of diabetes and hypertension.
On this adventure, I will extend my heart, deepen my humility, and spread my enthusiasm. Most of all, I will bring my best skills to these communities. I look forward to using the knowledge and expertise that I apply every day in my role with Lilly Canada’s Diabetes division.
But what thrills me the most is the opportunity to tap into the skills I used early in my career as a pharmacist in war-torn Serbia, my homeland. There I successfully managed my patients with diabetes through drug shortages, food scarcity, and a health care collapse—learning that it’s often not about what we have, but about our resilience and attitude to make the best of any situation. That is what made the biggest difference in my patients’ lives. And I hope to help make that happen again in Sonipat.
Today, I can only guess what the lasting impact of this experience will be. Clarity will come in the days, weeks and even months or years ahead. But I have an inkling this is just the beginning!