Emmy Shaw and Isabella Bristow visit the Philippines with Operation Smile, a medical charity.

Sixth Formers Emmy Shaw and Isabella Bristow visited the Philippines recently with Operation Smile, a medical charity, as student educators.

Emmy writes: We first became involved with Operation Smile over a year ago, and have been fundraising ever since. Operation Smile is a charity that provides free and safe cleft-lip and cleft palate surgeries to people across the world, in over 60 countries.

One in 700 babies are born with a cleft lip or cleft palate. In countries such as the US or the UK, cleft surgeries are readily available and given to every child after the age of six months, but this is not the case in many other countries. Families reject their babies upon birth, seeing their child’s cleft lip as ugly, bad luck or a mark of evil. In addition to this, a cleft lip or cleft palate causes many people to be malnourished as those who have them are often unable to eat sufficiently or breastfeed, and this is why the surgeries that Operation Smile provides are so valuable.

Recently, we, along with two other students from the UK, went on a ‘medical mission’ to Cebu in the Philippines with Operation Smile, where we had the role of student educators. This involved us teaching patients and their families about different healthcare modules such as CPR, ORT (Oral Rehydration Therapy), Heimlich’s manoeuvre, basic healthcare, burn care, and nutrition. Of these presentations, we found that CPR and ORT fully engaged the parents. The kids loved practising toothbrushing!

The primary purpose of these presentations is to educate people in hope that a life will be saved. Secondly, that people will take the information that they have learnt home, to educate others. At the end of these presentations we gave out toothbrushes and bars of soap, and we were overwhelmed by the gratefulness of the receivers!

Our other role was to entertain and comfort the patients on their journey through pre-op, child-life, surgery, and post-op, with toys, colouring, stickers, beach balls, pipe cleaners, dominos, and even Jenga! We treasured this time as it allowed us to connect with the patients and their families, to hear about their stories, and to cheer them up. We acted as friendly faces in an unfamiliar and intimidating place.

One of the best parts of the mission was being able to meet new people, including the amazing team of medical and local volunteers, as well as being able to interact and learn from the surgeons and anaesthesiologists whilst they were preforming surgery.

All of this made our time in Cebu incredible and unforgettable. It was amazing to see lives changing before our eyes and to experience the inspiring work that Operation Smile does first-hand. This has permanently changed our outlook and driven both of us to take our fundraising and advocacy further.

Thank you to all of those who donated, and shout-out to our club for being such enthusiastic fundraisers; everyone who helped made a huge contribution!

Visit our blog to read more. 

Emmy Shaw, Lower Sixth

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