Today’s guest blog comes from Randall Dick, a Lilly researcher whose passion for sports medicine and wellness played out in the Eastern Cape of South Africa last October when he volunteered with the Donald Woods Foundation and its Health in Every Hut program. The game plan? To work alongside local health workers to find innovative ways to reach residents in remote locations with health education. This year, Lilly will send another 100 ambassadors like Randall across the globe to volunteer through our Connecting Hearts Abroad program.
I’ve done little international travel, but I love to interact with people. So when I got the chance to travel to South Africa with nine Lilly colleagues—all strangers at first—I took advantage of this life-changing opportunity. Over two weeks, we bonded as a team and became friends, learned about the regional culture and work of the Donald Woods Foundation and completed assignments to help local health workers enhance their already great work. These community outreach workers are the faces of health and hope in this rural region. They travel from hut to hut conducting health screenings in locations so remote they don’t have street addresses, only GPS coordinates.
The region deals with a high prevalence of HIV, tuberculosis, teen pregnancy and substance abuse. To enhance education about healthy living, we worked on prevention concepts—including physical activity. That’s where the soccer balls and other items we brought with us came into play. And when we learned that many huts have some form of music, our iPhone playlists inspired smiles and dancing.
One day at the clinic, a spontaneous game of keep-away broke out among the office staff with a soccer ball that had been left on a table. What followed was 10 minutes of shuffling, errant bounces, stress relief and joy by those who devote their days to serving others. The soccer ball stayed at the clinic.
I’m a firm believer that exercise is medicine. In South Africa, music, soccer and other activities—and the resulting smiles—became our international language, especially with the kids. It was gratifying to learn that our exercise and “fun” campaign became a formal part of the program—playing out at clinics, in meetings and during visits with residents.
Perhaps most gratifying was the privilege to work with the community health workers in the Eastern Cape. These local people inspire everyone around them, including our team of ambassadors. They’re making a difference in their community, providing health care to more than 30,000 residents at an annual cost of $7 a person.
The world is a big place. But our team of 10 ambassadors from Lilly operations across the world made it a bit smaller—and hopefully better—with the help of our friends at the Donald Woods Foundation.