Student Volunteer: Tara Morrison
School: NIST International School of Thailand
Mission: Mae-Sot Tak, 2014
November 4th 2014 was the first time I ever met a child with cleft lip. Admittedly, before the said date, I was nervous. I had no idea what to expect from the Mission trip. I was anxious for the stories I would hear and the children I would meet and I didn’t know what to expect.
However, those nerves disappeared the second I stepped into the Mae-Sot General Hospital. It was a wonderful feeling knowing that all the children staying there would finally get help. It was something they all deserved with their positive energy and their courageous attitudes.
Hearing some of the stories of the cleft lip children really broke my heart. Some of the children were abandoned by their parents and were left to survive on their own. Some families even travelled across the country by foot because they did not have the money to pay for transport. No one deserves to go through the pain and loneliness they felt throughout those experiences. I realize that the surgery provided may not solve all their problems, but it is a start. I hope it to be a turning point in their lives.
During our volunteer time at the hospital, we made sure the children felt comfortable before and after their surgeries and did our best to distract them from the pain. It was amazing seeing all the children, and even their families, smiling with pure joy. They were all so brave and I couldn’t be happier knowing that their lives changed with that one surgery.
As volunteers, we were also offered the opportunity to watch the surgery itself take place. This was really hard for me due to my fear of blood and surgeries themselves. But I realized that this was a once in a lifetime experience and it really was. It allowed me really understand how the children were being treated, and I think that was the moment when I realized children’s lives were being changed. In those short 45 minutes, that little girl lying down on the hospital bed got the opportunity for a better life.
I had been a part of Operation Smile for 2 years now, but before this trip, I had no idea what impact we really had on the cleft lip children’s lives. To the parents who spoke Thai, I was able to speak with them about their experiences and they all really appreciated the help they were receiving. Knowing I was a part of a group that made a positive difference in their lives is something unforgettable.
The children’s smiles and their bravery will continue to inspire me in working with Operation Smile and I hope to stay a part of this group in the future. I would also like to encourage anyone willing to help to volunteer his or her time for Operation Smile. It truly was an eye-opening event and I can’t wait to participate in more.