Its been 10 days since I started with the team here at Smile Train Philippines and field trips have being a must for me to start understanding the organization´s model, mission, ways of working and challenges. I have felt welcomed, and I’ve received the most beautiful smiles from patients, families and the partner hospitals and centers.
It all started at the American Chamber of Commerce event where we set up our stand to raise awareness for the community and corporations regarding the incidence of cleft lip and palate (1/500 births) in the Philippines. We also shared Smile Train´s commitment to deliver free surgeries and comprehensive care to the affected families. To my surprise, as I turned around, a group of children entered the room and captivated me with their smiles. Some were shyer than others, nevertheless, they expeditiously spilled their energy on me and demonstrated their gratefulness. They also wanted their pictures taken. I was blown away.
The days later, whilst visiting partner surgeons, speech therapists and dentists among others, together with my super supervisor; I navigated the streets of Cebu and Batangas and perceived a country of beautiful contrasts, of tropical greens mixed with convoluted streets, of hospitality, of impressively visionary and skilled professionals, of politeness and enthusiasm. Throughout the day I hear ” Hello madam”, “Yes madam”, “Have a good day madam”, “Good evening madam”.
The tricycles and jeepneys give the streets a colorful character, they have flags, names of saints, angels and commercial advertisements giving the environment a sense of uniqueness. There is an orderly disorder in the traffic and its surrounding that flows and functions so well that it becomes poetic.
The journey has just begun. I am learning at an incredible pace, personally and professionally, and as Smile Train delivers smiles and gives back hope to Philippine families I aim to understand each day how to support them to overcome some of the challenges they face within this amazingly rich environment and culture…
The views expressed here are of the author and not of GSK nor of SMILE TRAIN PHILIPPINES