The Mölnlycke Health Care blog

Volunteering with Operation Smile in Guatemala part III

By: Mats Ekström and Sarah Launer, November 24 2015Posted in: The Mölnlycke Health Care blog

As part of Mölnlycke Health Care's ongoing support for Operation Smile (external link, opens in a new window), a non-profit organization that provides free surgeries to repair cleft lip, cleft palate and other facial deformities for children around the globe, Mölnlycke Health Care employees can volunteer to take part in Operation Smile missions. Employees Sarah Launer and Mats Ekström participated in an Operation Smile mission to Guatemala. Here are their stories.

Part three: Volunteers Sarah Launer and Mats Ekström share their final impressions after returning from their Operation Smile mission to Guatemala

Other than knowing we wanted to help restore smiles by volunteering with Operation Smile, we did not know quite what to expect when we embarked on the Guatemala-bound mission. Mölnlycke Health Care volunteers are not assigned specific roles or duties as volunteers because we are not medical professionals, but this meant that we needed to be ready for anything. And from the moment we arrived, we found that we could contribute by using administrative skills, unpacking medical supplies and meeting and entertaining the children. We both agree that the more you pitch in, the more you get out of the volunteer experience. We did everything we could, despite some of the overarching challenges, such as the language barrier or realizing the immensity of working with whatever materials and conditions are available. Nevertheless, every bit we could do to help offload some of the administrative tasks from the medical volunteers made a difference.

We both experienced a rollercoaster of emotions throughout the experience. We happened to be on hand as Operation Smile celebrated its 500th surgery in Guatemala, where the organisation has been restoring smiles for more than five years. Things began with us feeling overwhelmed when we started the screening process to prioritize who should receive the corrective surgeries. Throughout screening and the surgical interventions themselves, we met so many children whose lives had to have been filled with tremendous suffering, but this feeling was tempered by the hope we felt realizing that the children would have bright and positive futures because of Operation Smile. We were both so proud to be a part of that.

In fact, we are both proud to have been part of the entire mission and to have taken part in a shared mission with volunteers from all over the world. Our intense and eye-opening experience in Guatemala has given each of us a new and very real perspective on everyday life, and our experiences will stay with us for the rest of our lives.

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The surgical and wound care environment is always changing. The Mölnlycke Health Care blog addresses topics and trends in surgery and wound care. Among these topics are efficiency, health economy, infection control and patient safety. Read more about this blog and how to comment.

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