Upon arrival to Bacolod, Negros Occidental, Philippines, captured by infinite fields of sugar cane embedded by banana trees and dramatic skies, I felt peace. The captivating landscape took me back to Panama and on the bus, while listening to Ruben Blades, I reflected on all I have learned and grown while volunteering for Smile Train Philippines: motivation and commitment are the motors driving what seems impossible.
Our trip here, afar, was for the purpose of a patient gathering event where donors, foundations, partners, parents and children came together to celebrate 20 years of Smiles. Everyone woke up before 4 am to make it here, a sugar mill plantation which sponsored the event for these kids. It took riding tricycles, buses and walking for some parents to bring the children, but also the partner dentists and speech therapists flew over and committed their weekend to take the opportunity to share and guide these families, teaching them on optimal dental, nutritional and speech care. There was even an onsite mini speech camp in parallel with the party. The foundations and sponsors brought in the fun, the games, the food (a looooot of food – breakfast, merienda and lunch in less than 4 hours) and the gifts. One of the groups even rode a van which was actually placed on a boat to be able to make it there to celebrate Smiles.
During the event everyone was committed to leave a bigger smile on these children in an environment of love and care. I must share that it was all possible because my supervisor, Smile Train Philippines Program Manager, Felix Grimares (alias Jun) spent hours, days organizing, coordinating the whole event. I had the privilege to support him and to contribute with a nutritional talk. I have seen that when you are truly motivated and engaged with a cause, commitment is not even a question.
What a wonderful joyful day, how much learning. Smiles are addictive, I am changing and thanks to this opportunity (GSK Pulse Volunteers) I am supporting change in the community. I know I will bring this change back to my work and my home, in Panama, where the banana trees, green fields and my people are waiting for me!