Sometimes you need to go the ends of the earth to fully appreciate the generosity of the human spirit.
Recently I found myself in a small fishing community off the Pacific Coast of Mexico. While there might be occasional signs of American culture around, you never forget you are never more than a few steps from a level of poverty most of us would struggle to accurately imagine. While you might find set of golden arches alongside a busy road, a mere block away scores of people struggle to gather the basics to get through the day.
Which is what brings the journey of a handful of American doctors, nurses, and anesthesiologists to this tiny costal community so remarkable.
Each year thousands of children are born in communities throughout Mexico with a medical condition termed cleft lip – a deformity of the skin and muscles between the upper lip and nose. So severe is the condition, if left unattended, it can lead to lifetime of deep physiological and psychological scars.
One morning I spotted the sign of a local Rotary club meeting. With over a million members worldwide, Rotary clubs are found in communities both large and small around the globe. And in each community, these clubs are dedicated to both local and international projects for improving the lives of others.
Asking if I could visit, they welcomed me with open arms.
“Welcome amigo,” said the dark haired man at the door. “You’ve come on a very special day for us. Please join us.”
Sitting down in the rectangular room filled several dozen local members, I noticed a small group of young medical staff across the room speaking quietly among themselves – each somewhat nervous of the attention they were receiving from those in the room.
As the presentation began, I began to better understand and appreciate the level of commitment and coordination going on behind the scenes to make this amazing local project come to life. With the contributions from local businesses, the local club funded an effort to help provide free surgeries for local children afflicted with this genetic disorder. The small group of American doctors and staff donated their time to fly to the small community and spend the week. Additionally, each team member was provided with free lodging at a local hotel along with transportation being provided by a local car dealership. In another generous contribution, the local hospital opened up both of its surgery rooms for the team to use at no charge. During the past week, the surgical team operated and touched the lives of 31 local children.
And the commitment goes beyond the single event as the surgeries require follow up procedures as the child matures in order to ensure proper hearing, chewing, and speaking patterns. In this particular community a new set of doctors arrive each 6-months to donate their very special skills and services. The community, in turn, comes together to make their visit as pleasant as possible and to thank them in ways money could never do.
As the presentation came to a close, three photos were shown of a young boy several surgeries into his journey. Today with a giant, beautiful smile, his eyes are alive with the energy and joy absent from his earlier photos. His life is now one he and his family could never imagine if not for a community coming together to find a way to change lives – one smile at a time.
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