St. Andrews students help change lives thru ‘Operation Simile’

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St. Andrews students recently pitched in to give a helping hand at the ‘Operation Simile’ medical mission in Chonburi.

‘Community Action Service’ is an integral and very important part of the IB diploma programme at St. Andrews International School. In order to meet the requirements of ‘CAS’, students are required to complete a certain number Learning Objectives where we spend time in the community helping out those less fortunate than ourselves. Therefore, on May 6th – 10th we volunteered to go to Chonburi to help out with the charity ‘Operation Smile.’

At first our aim was to complete as many CAS Objectives as possible, but by the end of this trip, it became much more than that. It became a life changing experience for all involved, a chance to make a difference to children and parents whose lives are often unbearably difficult.

IB Student Ty entertaining with bubbles.IB Student Ty entertaining with bubbles.

I arrived not knowing much about the charity, ‘Operation Smile.’ However, I soon discovered that approximately one in every five hundred babies in Thailand is born with a cleft lip or cleft palate. These cases are far more common in rural Thailand than urban areas and without ‘Operation Smile’ it is almost impossible for these children to receive the operations they desperately need. The children that don’t receive these operations can suffer from malnutrition, medical, and psychological problems.

In the few days that I spent at the hospital in Chonburi many of these children received their operation and had the chance to lead a normal life.

It was quite traumatizing to see the operations live and then see many of the parents cry afterwards because their child was in so much pain. This was extremely hard for me, as I’ve never witnessed anything like this in person and it’s made me realize just how privileged I am.

It’s not the kind of realization when you see things on television and are bombarded with images of the less fortunate. It’s a different kind of realization; the kind that hits you really hard and makes you really want to help.

Lisa providing respite for parents.Lisa providing respite for parents.

I spent a few days getting to know the parents and their beautiful children who came from all areas of Thailand and realized that they don’t have much money or many possessions, but what they do have is hope. Hope that their children will get better and to be around that hope and love was a very humbling experience.

‘Operation Smile’ does an amazing job to bring together volunteer surgeons and medical teams, along with average people like us who raise money so that these children can have these life changing operations.

Without charities like ‘Operation Smile’ and the generous people who donate money and time these children and their families would continue to suffer.

I was very privileged to be part of this medical mission and am dedicated to continue helping those less fortunate than myself. Not because I have a certain number of CAS hours to complete, but because I know I can make a difference, no matter how small.