Merck Volunteer Goes Back to Her Roots for Meaningful Mission

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Merck Volunteer Goes Back to Her Roots for Meaningful Mission

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Merck Heroes is a new feature spotlighting @Merck employee volunteers. November highlights Lydia Matombo

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Wednesday, November 6, 2013 - 10:00am

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Born in Zimbabwe, Lydia Matombo, always dreamed of returning to Africa to give back in some way. Recently, this dream became a reality.

After 11 years at Merck, Lydia Matombo had enough vacation days and money saved to go on a two-week mission to Michura, Kenya.

Lydia chose to work with 410 Bridge, an organization headquartered in Alpharetta, Georgia, because she was attracted to the group’s holistic approach. 410 Bridge partners with local community leaders in Kenya, as well as in Haiti, to foster development of key skills so that these communities can become self-sufficient. It plans to add Uganda to its list of sites in the near future. The organization targets five impact areas: water, education, health care, micro-enterprise and spiritual development.

“I wanted to volunteer with 410 Bridge because their philosophy focused on empowering people to help themselves,” said Lydia who has a background in nursing. “My trip was more than a relief-aid visit where we brought supplies. Rather, I was involved in community outreach and education that will reap long-term benefits.”

Part of a small team of volunteers, Lydia began preparing for the trip to Kenya months ahead of time. Working with 410 Bridge staff, she had to complete reading assignments and participate in bi-weekly discussions aimed at aligning the team’s expectations with the values and ideals of the organization. She also attended a day-long briefing session where she learned about the culture in Kenya, the clothes and medicines she needed to pack and the diseases prevalent in that country.

While in Kenya, Lydia volunteered at a clinic and helped out at a community education day, where locals received HIV training, prenatal care and vaccinations. From start to finish, her experience made an indelible impression. On her first day, she and a district nurse from Kenya helped a man whose leg was paralyzed from polio by explaining to him what services were available to him at the district hospital. For example, the man already had a walker from the district hospital, but he still used a stick as the walker was too high for him. She explained that he could get a boot fitted for his non-paralyzed foot to help prevent exposure to soil parasites. She also explained the importance of using the walker and boot to help relieve the symptoms that the man had come to the clinic complaining about. On her last day in Kenya, she met a man with a similar medical condition. “He had heard, through word of mouth, how we had helped the first man and was hoping we could do the same thing for him,” said Lydia. “Talk about a referral! It’s remarkable to think that in helping the first man, we helped others too.”

Lydia believes that everyone can make a difference by getting involved. Since returning from Kenya, she has continued to work with 410 Bridge. Lydia said, “I have always had the desire to give back but now that desire has increased a thousand-fold.”

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Keywords: Volunteerism & Community Engagement | Education | Healthcare | Kenya | Volunteers | merck heroes | microenterprise | water

CONTENT: Article