Throughout this entire trip, we have been a part of some of the most incredible experiences in the history of humankind. However, one lone, and single, but grand, new exposure to our world has risen above the rest.
This “grand, new exposure” that a young lady named Samantha Wallenstrom had once so famously said, is called Operation Smile. Operation Smile is a non-profit organization founded in 1982 when Dr. Bill Magee and Kathy Magee (parents of my mom’s friends) went to The Philippines to help fix cleft palates and other facial deformities. 300 people were waiting for them, and begging to fix their children and babies . It was too many people for only a handful of surgeons to do on that one trip, and so they promised to come back the following year for more patents. Soon, volunteers, surgeons, and dentists were traveling to places around the world to help other babies and children in need.
My family arrived at the Hospital/Clinic in Managua bright and early, to find the place crowded with mixed faces of children, running around with with toys, parents with hopeful expressions, and doctors, volunteers, and surgeons working hard with driving determination showing all over their faces.
Our job wasn’t hard. It was to keep all the children happy with toys, art, and maybe some competitions. Everyone seemed to be laughing and smiling. For this wasn’t surgery day. It was the day when everyone would get inspected, sign their papers, and all that stuff. The staff would then the next day decide who would get the surgeries and who wouldn’t.
Anyways, when new kids would arrive, they would be kind of timid and shy. But after a couple of minutes, you could see them playing with other boys and girls.
It was really cool to watch. We were all kinda standing there though just staring. Probably with some goofy smile on our faces. Hey! Smiling really is contagious. All the kids were probably staring at us like, “Why are those gringos looking at us like that? It’s kinda creeping me out!” We all decided that we didn’t want to be “creepy gringos”, so I picked up a game, Uno I think, and sat down in the middle of the human tornado of kids and toys. Sooner or later there we 6 or seven children cluttered around in a circle slamming the cards down in the middle. Yellow 4’s on top of red 7’s, Blue 3’s below a reverse that, somehow, never got reversed.
It was really fun, but we were all pooped by the time lunch rolled around. Luckily everyone had calmed down with a piece of paper and a couple of pens and looked content with what they were doing. This gave us time to rest for a little. But when we had finally gained our energy back, the volunteers needed help inside, so us kids (me, Turner and Lucy) never really went back outside to play. This was alright. We all needed some real work to do, or else we would have become restless. Our job consisted of leading the patents from certain stops to the next depending on where, let’s say, “Fatal signs” wanted them to go to. Sometimes it was pretty confusing for me to and it was probably a good thing someone was there who at least kinda knew what they were doing and where they were going.
As for my parents, they just stayed outside with the kids. It was pretty hot out there there though so it was really nice of them. My dad was probably okay. I doubt he even feels the heat when he’s playing games and talking to other people. Especially kids. When the day was finally over, we were were all tired and ready to go to bed. Which we did. And then woke up at about 5 a.m. to catch a flight to the Corn Islands. We would get back a couple days later for surgery day.
Surgery day was very different than day 1. First of all. All of the kids were either very excited and had big smiles, or were super nervous and hid behind their parents and didn’t talk at all. The majority of the kids were scared and nervous. Extremely. Which was why, our work that day was to help make the patents more comfortable right before their surgery. The child life specialist, Ginny, was in charge of telling and showing the freaking out parents and scared children what was going to happen during the surgery. Then, we mostly just tried to keep the kids preoccupied. It was a pretty smart idea. I would toss a ball around with some of them and by the end, they would be laughing. It was a great way to let them kind of forget about what was going on so they wouldn’t be freaking out for the half an hour before hand.
That day went a lot slower. So slow, that we left right before they were finished with all the surgeries. Not way after dark like on day one. That night we would be driving to Leon and my mom would go back to the states for house work. So, the four of us needed to get going pretty soon after it got dark.
That was the end of our volunteering and it hasn’t and no doubt it won’t leave our minds for a long time. Secretly, I think all of us promised ourselves that we would be back in a couple of years or so to help again. But, alas, I can not see the future, nor do I have a glass ball. We will just have to wait and see what will happen in the years to come.
And I hope that my deep and meaningful message will have an impression on you. And who knows, maybe we’ll see you on our next mission with. Operation Smile.