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The selflessness it takes to devote one’s life and energy to improving the wellbeing of others oftentimes stems from following the example of someone else.
For volunteer clinical coordinator Doreenlove Serwah, it was her mother who instilled a deep desire to be kind, empathetic and driven.
“My mom was a nurse, and I grew up looking up to her,” Doreenlove said. “Her compassion, care and love for us as well as other family members and neighbours had a great impact on me. The only profession I could think of was nursing.”
But she continually felt in her heart that she should make an ever greater difference in the world.
“I read a lot of books in my formative years,” she said. “I realised that most of the characters I read about did some form of volunteering as a means of giving back to society. I was inspired and motivated to do something like that.”
In early 2016, a classmate of Doreenlove’s learned of Operation Smile Ghana’s efforts in recruiting new volunteers to join the organisation’s mission of restoring the lives of patients affected by cleft.
In an instant, Doreenlove recognised how she could channel her mother’s courage and compassion into her work. She hasn’t looked back since.
“Through volunteering with (Operation Smile), I found a means to give back to my country,” Doreenlove said. “The joy I experience when I see kids and adults receive free surgeries is worth every sacrifice I’ve made.”
From the very beginning of Doreenlove’s journey as a recovery room nurse with Operation Smile Ghana, education was at the forefront of her volunteerism.
Recognised for her natural ability to teach and be a mentor to others, Doreenlove became an instructor for basic life support and paediatric advanced life support courses.
“Through volunteering with Operation Smile, I’ve had a lot of free educational training, which I wouldn’t have gotten for free anywhere else,” she said.
Even then, Doreenlove felt motivated to do more. Ready to harness her skills as an educator and a nurse, Doreenlove sought out the position of clinical coordinator.
“The clinical coordinator role is integral and paramount in the planning and execution of a mission,” she said. “Through that, I’ve discovered capabilities I didn’t know I had.”
As the head nurse in charge of mobilising a team of volunteers coming from countries all around the world, the clinical coordinator must adapt under pressure, lead confidently while delivering care amidst a chaotic environment and execute essential responsibilities to safeguard the success of every mission: ensuring all medical supplies arrive to the mission site, guaranteeing all procedures remain on schedule during surgery days as well as prioritising the safety of every patient and volunteer.
It was Doreenlove’s quick thinking and commitment to discover the intricacies of every step of the mission that initially made fellow clinical coordinator Sally Herman single her out from the crowd.
“I always had my eye on Doreenlove. She had that same curiosity as I did. She wanted to see the big picture and see how everything comes together,” Sally said. “She was always asking the most important questions and going way above and beyond. Those people stand out to me.”
While the training was intense and demanding, Sally felt confident that Doreenlove would successfully handle the challenges of the position.
“I saw it from day one. That’s something you look for – that ambition, that drive,” Sally said. “It makes me so proud of her that she’s taking it and creating her own ways of getting the same job done.”
“I felt privileged to train under Sally because she had such rich experience,” Doreenlove said. “She shared her experiences with me regarding how to critically manage unforeseen events during missions as well as how to manage volunteers and bring them all together.”
Embracing the reality that Doreenlove has transitioned from student to teacher, Sally hopes to one day see her pass on that knowledge and expertise to someone new. It’s by equipping and empowering the next generation of volunteers that Operation Smile will live on.
“If we kept it to ourselves, it would end with us. If you want a legacy, you have to teach,” Sally said. “With Doreenlove, I already see her wanting to teach other people, so I know that she’s going to pass on her skills. That’s throwing the rock into a pond – the ripples keeping growing. She’ll train other clinical coordinators, so it goes on and on and on.”
Emulating what Sally taught her and modifying it into her own way of doing things, Doreenlove shapes the future of the organisation and all clinical coordinators who follow her.
“Volunteering with Operation Smile paved the way for me to explore and use my leadership qualities,” Doreenlove said. “I’ve become a better nurse and a mentor to many.”