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Smile Makers

Here you'll find what Operation Smile is all about - touching stories of our volunteers, supporters and donors whose generosity are helping make a difference in the lives of children.

My day with Operation Smile

I consider myself to be somewhat mildly socially awkward, I’m never entirely sure how to act around new people or what behaviour is expected of me.  During the hour and a half journey from my home in Manila to Alapit, Pampanga for the Operation Smile mission on July 14, this was one of my primary concerns.  My Filipino is sub-par (but better than my brother’s, whose Tagalog vocabulary ranges from ‘konti lang’ to ‘tubig’), I don’t spend that much time around children, and I wasn’t sure how I’d be able to relate to them.  My grandfather, Max Edralin Jr., had been the founding president of Operation Smile Philippines for 10 years.  It is a charity very close to not only his heart, but to the hearts of the rest of my family.  I’d attended various charity functions, seen the ‘before and after’ photos, and met a couple of the post-op patients years later, but I’d never experienced it up close and personal.  How would I be able to help? How do I comfort scared children and even more scared parents?

IMG_0283---Francesca-Boughton-the-Author.jpgAs we walked into the first ward of children, bags of teddy bears and toys in hand, all my apprehension disintegrated into the air.  The first thing I saw was a two year old boy with a cleft lip, and he was beautiful – all thick black hair and big eyes, bouncing on his mother’s lap.  I gave him a teddy bear, the ear of which he immediately tried to bite off, sparking laughter around the ward.  Operation Smile aims to change lives one smile at a time, but everyone was already smiling.  Even the children who were nervous immediately lit up as soon we showed them the goodies we brought.  I thought everyone would be worried about their operations but they all seemed far more excited to be there than worried; And so they should be, they were in very good and capable hands.

After visiting and playing with the pre-op children, we were given the amazing opportunity to enter the operating rooms and observe.  We geared up in gowns, masks, booties and hair caps and proceeded inside with trepidation – none of us had been in an operating room before, so we weren’t quite sure what to expect.  What we experienced was beyond all expectations.  Techno music was blaring from an iPad in the corner of the operating room where doctors, nurses and technicians were all tapping their feet and bobbing their heads whilst huddled over three operating tables, changing lives.  The surgeons were very accommodating, stopping at various steps to show us what they were doing.  We even got to watch the entire operation on a child who was ‘tongue-tied’, and to our surprise and amazement it only took 10 minutes! When the surgeon was done, he shimmied out of the room in time to the techno beat to retrieve the next patient.  It warmed my heart to see everyone having such a great time whilst doing incredible, life-changing work. This is how it should always be.

As we left the operating rooms, the nurses were prepping for surgery a boy with a cleft palate who we had played with earlier in the day.  His name was Prince.  As we walked past him, my friend Sanchia commented, “He went in a Prince, and he’ll come out a King.”


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