September 15, 2014
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“Tim, there is a man outside of the hospital who is asking everyone where you are. No one knows who he is!"
I rush over to our medical records volunteer, confused and intrigued. Who would know my name here? Is it a patient? Could he be mistaken? It’s only my first time in Myanmar. Unable to answer my probing questions herself, the volunteer leads me to the man.
Never have I been greeted by a stranger who seemed so happy to see me. Still, I am baffled. This is a level of enthusiasm which only a dear friend could receive. “It’s me, Moses!” the man tells me as I walk up to him.
As I repeat his name, a deluge of memory rushes in. Here in Myanmar, I'm surrounded by doctors, crying babies and Burmese interpreter. But all that chatter begins to fade as my perception of the physical environment around me becomes a dreamy recollection of my own home back in Virginia.
In the living room of my Virginia Beach apartment, I remember receiving a phone call from an unknown number. Probably another telemarketer, I thought, but I answer it anyway. It’s Moses.
Moses knows that I will be traveling to Myanmar, and he declares that we must meet in Yangon. That was three weeks ago.
Perhaps such a phone call from a stranger seems a bit odd. But let me step back a second to explain why I thought it was the most remarkable phone call I have ever received in my life.
The reason I am in Myanmar is because of Operation Smile, a medical charity organization that provides reconstructive surgeries to children born with facial deformities such as cleft lip and cleft palate. Every three minutes a child is a born with a cleft lip or cleft palate, and in the countries we operate, often times their parents can’t afford the surgeries they need to live a normal life.
When you don’t have enough money to seek treatment and you live in a rural village with an under-resourced health system, chances are that you will have to live your life the way you were born into this world.
Moses knew of two children in Myanmar in need of a cleft surgery, and wanted to ensure that they, too, did not fall prey to a medical system that could not help them, and a society that does not know how to accept them.
All it took was a little bit of self-assertiveness. That kind of courage will make you do crazy things, like call up strangers for random meetings halfway around the world.
He brought with him two children from Palaung, Myanmar—one of the poorest villages in Myanmar— who will never forget his kindness. And I will never forget his boldness. Thanks to Moses, these two children will be able to live healthy lives. They won't understand the impact now, but I'm sure they will be forever grateful to Moses as they grow older.
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