Connecting Hearts Abroad

Today's guest blog is from Tina Catron, a senior sales representative from Detroit. Tina recently travelled to Zandspruit, South Africa, where she volunteered as part of our Connecting Hearts Abroad program.

Earlier this year, I received an email that would eventually change my life. The email invited me to apply for a service trip through Connecting Hearts Abroad. I chose to apply for the trip to South Africa, as I felt an interest in the culture and saw the potential for me to make a real difference. Shortly after submitting my application, I received another email saying I was chosen. I'll admit I could barely contain my excitement, but first it was time to have a serious discussion with my family. My husband, along with my parents and the rest of my family, were extremely supportive and encouraged me to take part in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We decided together to go forward, and it is a decision that led me to an experience I never thought was possible.

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I left for South Africa on May 3 with an open heart, prepared to help where I was needed. Upon arrival, I was overwhelmed by the poor conditions in which so many were living. My heart welled up with feelings of sadness, guilt and anxiety for their reality. The community was made of homes that were loosely put together with aluminium, wood and rocks, and basically anything they could find to secure the pieces together. The roads were not paved; instead, they were all dirt with sewage streaming through the village. When I entered the village, I was met with a very nauseating smell that brought to mind something toxic that would not be safe to inhale. There was a lot of work to be done. Not long after being there and speaking with the folks in the community, my feelings of sadness and anxiety quickly shifted to pride and hope. There was a desire for change on the face of every person I met.

Our team focused on building vegetable gardens for diabetic patients, as well as educating the community on diabetes. I believe we made a tangible difference, building more than 20 vegetable gardens, and educating the community on maintenance and building new gardens. Lilly's NCD Partnership is an international platform that is designed to support multicultural and impoverished communities. While serving in South Africa, I learned first-hand the importance of organizations like Project Hope and the difference they make in communities struggling with what we consider basic, minimal standards.

As a direct result of my Connecting Hearts Abroad experience in South Africa, I have returned home to the doctors I work with and their patients with a new understanding of the ability to do more with less and how I can leverage the resources I have. I realize how much time I spend complaining about what I don't have, when I should be maximizing the blessing that are around me.

I am so proud to be partnered with a company that leads with their heart and goes where the need is. I am forever changed by this experience and grateful to Lilly for the opportunity.