One way GSK supports communities is the through the Orange Day initiative, allowing GSK employees to take a paid day off to volunteer for a chosen community project, nonprofit organization or cause which they support. Earlier this year, 200 US vaccines employees came together in Kansas City, LaJolla and Orlando to spend a day in the life of a meningitis survivor.
Though rare, meningococcal disease, also known as meningitis, is a bacterial infection that can be devastating and potentially deadly within 24 hours of onset of symptoms. Approximately one in 10 people infected with meningitis will die while one in five meningitis survivors will suffer from long-term disabilities, which could include loss of limbs.
During this Orange Day event, the employees assembled prosthetic hands to be donated to children and adults around the world who are amputees as a result of war, accidents, illness or congenital conditions. The catch? They had to cover their dominant hand with a sleeve and assemble the materials using their non-dominant hand.
“Our hands were slightly shaky and we had to rely on each other to accomplish our task. I felt relieved when our prosthetic hand was finished and I could remove the sleeve and go back to life with two hands,” said Kathleen Santangelo, private account manager. “I felt disappointed and surprised at myself for feeling this way. My nine-year-old daughter was born with an upper limb difference so I should have known what it is like to for a one-handed person to live in a two-handed world. Ultimately, we can only try our best to understand the challenges faced by people who have lost a limb.”
“My table mates and I quickly realized that by changing our perspective, working together as a team, and using the resources around us, anything was possible. Knowing that we were helping someone in need drove us forward.”
Struggling with a physical limitation – even for just a short time – was an eye-opening experience, made even more powerful by the inspiring stories they heard from meningitis survivors, like Nick Springer, a U.S. Paralympic gold medalist, who lost all four limbs to meningitis when he was just 14 years old. Nick, who is working with GSK to help raise awareness of meningitis through our Take 5 for Meningitis and Win for Meningitis campaigns, skillfully maneuvered his wheelchair around the room, joked with employees and spoke passionately about why he is an advocate for meningitis awareness and vaccinations
Other lessons learned from this Orange Day experience:
- You’re stronger than you think you are.
- Excuses can only stand in the way of your dreams.
- Focus on what you can do, rather than those things you can’t do.
- You are bigger than your circumstances.
- Teamwork and collaboration can exponentially increase your positive impact on the community.