Volunteering with Operation Smile in the Philippines: Frances' New Smile!
-Australian Volunteer Nurse, Carmel Corso.
In Bicol, Legaspi, our lucky #100 patient, Frances, a gorgeous 8-year-old girl, was screened at last minute, considered a 'walk-in' mid mission commencement, this girl captured my heart from the minute I met her. She was so happy, dancing with me preoperatively, so trusting and seemingly comfortable, despite having a greater degree of facial deformities than those around her. There was something uniquely special about her. The origin of her name came from the fact that she was born in September, the month of the famous Bicol festival 'Penafrancia'. She is one of 5 children raised by a single Mum and the only sibling born with facial deformities. She was first made known to Operation smile at the age of 3 years but for various reasons (lack of funds, transport, her own illness) didn't reconnect with Operation smile till early last year when her older brother reached out via Facebook! France indeed had successful surgery and was adoringly supported by her mum at her side, so so thankful for her daughter’s new face and smile.
This is just such a small keyhole peak at the difference Operation Smile makes EVERY DAY with as little as a 45 min operation. Lives changed forever, inside and out.Operation Smile allows me the opportunity to travel to so many different parts of the world - experiencing all different cultures. Whilst we may be culturally different.... we are all the same deep down...... yearning...longing for acceptance, a sense of belonging and connectedness with others. Every person deserves this, to experience their best life possible.
Operation Smile facilitates safe surgery in order to provide that healing smile. These children, their families, come to us with such mixed emotions - vulnerable, scared, helpless, desperate, excited and hopeful. We share their journey, often quite simply with a universally understood sign.....a hug, a smile.
It is such a privilege and a blessing to be part of this global Operation Smile family. A team that comes together from all over the world, for a short amount of time, united in heart and mind to be M.A.D.!! (making a difference), providing an opportunity for extraordinary change, both for the patients and volunteers. It is inspirational, immensely rewarding and leaves footprints on my heart. A heart that is overflowing with love and gratitude for being lucky enough to experience all that is Operation Smile.