Clarisse is a Recovery Room nurse and currently works at Macclesfield District General Hospital. She got involved with Operation Smile for the first time in 2009, when she was invited by her former professor Dr Summer Evangelista to be a part of an international mission in Cebu. Clarisse was impressed by the work Operation Smile does, and has since been on 30 international missions, to countries including Myanmar, Morocco, Guatemala and Nicaragua.
When did you get involved with Operation Smile?
I got involved with Operation Smile in 2009 because my mentor and university professor invited me to volunteer on an Operation Smile mission in Cebu. The moment I saw the kids after surgery and their transformation I got hooked with it and I have been doing it until now, participating in 30 international and local medical missions in places including the Philippines, Morocco, Guatemala and Nicaragua.
What do you do during a medical mission?
I am a recovery room nurse, so I take care of the patient from the operating theatre and I help them recover after surgery. The recovery room is also the area where parents see their child for the first time after surgery. This is the part that I enjoy most because this is the moment when you see all the emotions of the parents who are happy to see their child for the first time after surgery. It’s so overwhelming to witness their happiness to see the instant transformation of their children.
What is it like to be there at the medical mission site as families start to arrive?
On screening day at the beginning of each mission families start to arrive one by one and as volunteers we can understand what we are going to do to help these children. I often imagine how these patients would look after surgery and how their lives will change, so it’s really overwhelming. In these moments I feel that I can be a part of something really magical, like transforming these beautiful smiles, to be even more beautiful after surgery.
What are the biggest challenges you faced while volunteering for Operation Smile?
I can say that the biggest challenge I have faced on my previous missions would be language and communicating with patients, because families don’t always speak English, but we get lots of help from local volunteers and translators. Another challenge is adjusting to the equipment that we have because it is not like the normal setup that we have in hospitals back home. However, everybody helps a lot during the mission and we make sure to provide exceptional and safe care to our patients.
How has volunteering with Operation Smile impacted you professionally and personally?
Volunteering for Operation Smile has really inspired me a lot because I started in the Philippines and I just really wanted to know how to work with other people outside my country. I think it is an overwhelming feeling to be helping people, transforming beautiful smiles, these children, these families who can’t afford surgery and I have the capabilities to help them. That’s the most inspiring thing and that really hits me that my skills can really help.
How and why you would encourage other people to get involved?
I do encourage others to get involved with Operation Smile just because of the instant transformation that they will see. If you hear the stories of these children, learning about their background and their families, you will hear that they are being bullied with other children making fun of them for their cleft. However, we can change this condition. When we go back and see the patients for their post-op evaluations, we are overwhelmed by hearing the children saying that nobody is bullying them anymore because they can speak better and their face is now healed. If you hear these stories, you just want to donate your time or money to ensure they can get surgery. It is really inspiring to help.. You can’t really imagine the impact you are having on children, their family and their future as well.