A Lions Members Experience on Mission in the Philippines

Kylie Merrett.

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When I was asked to represent Lions Australia on an Operation Smile Mission I felt so honoured and grateful. As a member of the Brisbane Holland Park Lions Club I participate in fundraising activities with the knowledge that some of the funds raised go towards the Lions Australia Operation Smile project.

I have the personal experience of over 30 years of working in health care as Radiographer /Sonographer. I felt I was well prepared for the mission. I was so little prepared however for the overpowering emotion I would feel throughout my trip. The hope in the eyes of the parents of the 150 potential patients as they held their children in the stifling humidity in the waiting area on screening day; the tears of pure joy and overwhelming gratitude of a young father as he held his precious child after surgery; the compassion, professionalism and gentle kindness displayed by the volunteer medical team are all precious memories that will be with me always.

I was given the unique opportunity to observe the workings of the entire Operation Smile mission. Without doubt, the team of health professionals that I was able to observe and interact with, are amongst the warmest, most compassionate, professional and selfless individuals I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. It was incredible to witness firsthand the generous act of all of these health professionals from all over the world who left their country, their family and friends to work so very hard for no monetary reward and no expectations of gratitude or praise. I was so very impressed with the seamless integration with the local hospital staff and volunteers. It truly was a collaborative effort which was so wonderful. As a Lions member and as a personal contributor to charity, I was so pleased to see that staff and resources were fully utilized. As Lions members, our motto is ‘To Serve’. I was so assured and am delighted to report back to my fellow members that our work to raise funds for Operation Smile is so very worthwhile.

We are all helping to change these young lives. That makes me very proud.

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 During my time in the Philippines I had the opportunity to speak with and spend valuable time with many families. In Australia, it is so very easy to take our health system for granted. In the Philippines and other developing countries, without the help of Operation Smile these children with cleft lips/palates would not be able to be treated. These families are so very poor. Most had to rely on family or friends to lend them money to allow them to travel to the hospital for screening.

Our smile is our greatest asset. It projects kindness and happiness. The children that I spent time with were beautiful to begin with. The transformation after surgery however was remarkable. The children now have the smiles that match their happy souls. Most significantly however, their overall prognosis and life expectancy is so very improved.

Throughout our lives, we all face tragedies. We have loved ones who have illnesses or conditions that can’t be saved with a 45-minute operation. We can’t help everyone. There are many however that we can help. To have the personal experience to witness first-hand how I can make a difference to a truly worthwhile cause has been life changing. It is heartwarming for me to now have so much more enthusiasm to continue to raise money to help so many more children like the beautiful little friends I made in the Philippines. Thank you so much to Lions for giving me this wonderful opportunity and to Operation Smile Australia for facilitating my journey.

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"We strive for a world where no child suffers the risks and uncertainties of a facial deformity."

- Richard Lewandowski, Plastic Surgeon, Co-Founder Operation Smile Australia