Three times a year, each year, GIVEs “Ambassadors” are dispatched in pairs for three weeks to Southern Africa to assist non-profit organizations that receive funding from the BMS Foundation. The Ambassadors lend their business expertise to help the partner organizations improve their management capabilities, operational capacity and overall effectiveness.
For this year’s iteration, beginning May 27, GIVEs Ambassadors Cindy Chen, Finance Manager, R&D Finance, and Charles Phiri, Associate Director, Logistics and Facilities Management, Global Procurement, set out for Estwani (formerly Swaziland), where they will lend their expertise to a collaboration between three Foundation partner organizations — the eSwatini Breast and Cervical Cancer Network, Baylor CoE, and FAWESWA — that aims to enhance prevention, early detection and management of cancers among women. Chen and Phiri will also make stops in South Africa, where they will work with the WITS Health Consortium and the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital, and in Tanzania to assist the Beat Cancer Foundation. In assisting the organizations, the pair plan to “divide and conquer”: Chen will focus on improving the groups’ budgeting and tracking systems, while Phiri will seek to fine tune their supplier contracts and service agreements.
Chen, who devotes much of her personal time volunteering in her local community, her church and her children’s school, noted the support she’s received from colleagues in her immediate team, who will be covering her workload while she’s in Africa.
“It’s indicative of our culture here at BMS that I’m not only being offered this life-changing opportunity, but that my colleagues have offered so much encouragement of my development,” she said.
For Phiri, who lives in the UK but hails from Zambia, returning to Africa as a GIVEs Ambassador is a personal imperative — one born out of tragedy in his own past. Years ago, while still living in Zambia, he lost five of his siblings to AIDS. They all died within a short period of time and left children behind, whom he helped raise. At one point he had as many as 18 nieces and nephews living with him, and even after he immigrated to the UK, he continued financially supporting his extended family back home.
“By working to improve the operations of these groups that provide such critically needed services in rural and poor communities, I want to show people there is light at the end of the tunnel, that they can survive and prosper despite incredible adversities,” he said. “I want to help them become stronger.”
Launched in 2011, GIVEs has sent 48 Ambassadors from BMS sites around the world and served 46 non-profit organizations across 7 countries. The program has trained more than 7,000 health workers across the various Foundation partner organizations it has worked with, reaching more than 514,000 people served by these organizations.