It’s hard to believe but I have been living in Swaziland for more than nine weeks! What a whirlwind it has been from receiving the phone call asking me to join MSF Switzerland on their mission in Swaziland to settling into my new life there.
I applied to MSF last August after realizing that the time I spent volunteering (which was big part of my life) made me happier and more fulfilled than the time I spent in the private sector earning the big paycheck. Don’t get me wrong… the big paycheck allowed me to volunteer, travel the world and afforded me a very comfortable life… but for a while I had been feeling like something was missing. After some soul searching and helpful conversations with friends, I realized there are opportunities to combine my professional training as a pharmacist and my desire to volunteer. After my initial interview and attending a local informational session given by my interviewer, I knew I was on the right path.
Following my next interview I was invited to attend information days in New York City which solidified my decision… joining MSF as a pharmacist was what I wanted, and perhaps needed. So on August 22nd when I got the call that there was a position available in Swaziland I didn’t hesitate to say YES! So the whirlwind began. In the following 19 days I gave two weeks notice at work (after 15 years with the company), rented my home, put all of my belongings into storage (minus the 21kg I was allowed to bring with me) and jumped on a plane to start my adventure.
I had many stops for briefings before landing in Swaziland… first to NYC (my contracting office), then to Geneva (MSF Switzerland’s office), next was Bordeaux (the warehouse for MSF Switzerland’s medications), and back to Geneva. The briefings were done by various members of the team with focus areas relevant to my role such as the headquarter Pharmacist, supply, cold chain referents, etc. Each covered important topics such as the focus and challenges of the mission, the role of the pharmacist, the support available to me as a pharmacist, process to acquire medications, expectations and often they provided relevant, supportive documents. After eight days the groundwork was laid and I was (finally) boarding a plane to Swaziland! In Swaziland I spent my first six days in Mbabane getting additional briefing specific to my role in Swaziland and enjoying a long weekend due to country elections. Finally, on September 25th I arrived in my new home, Nhlangano, Swaziland!
When I told people about my career change I was often met with puzzled looks as people didn’t know that MSF had positions for pharmacists. I’ve decided to blog about my experience as a pharmacist volunteering with MSF so people can gain insights into the role of a pharmacist in MSF, with a focus on the work we are doing in Swaziland.
The other reason I got puzzled looks was that no one knew where Swaziland is located. I hope to provide insights into this wonderful country as well.