April 2, 2013
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Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.
Operation Smile’s World Care program is dependent on the kindness of families around the world who open up their homes to children born with complicated facial deformities.
Our World Care program helps children worldwide whose disfigurements are much too complicated to treat during a two-week medical mission. Instead, these children are sent to Australia, Italy, South Africa, the Philippines or the United States to be treated there at a partner hospital that often donates its services. But the children often must undergo numerous operations and therefore they and their families may stay in that country for weeks and even up to six months.
A caring host family provides a home for them during the child’s treatment and recovery. As these children’s faces — and lives — are dramatically transformed, so are the lives of their generous sponsors and host families who make these miracles possible.
Eight-year-old Rafaela and her mother Dominga from the Dominican Republic are in the United States so Rafaela can undergo several surgeries that will restore her nose, which was destroyed by an infection when she was just a baby.
The Scott family of Virginia Beach, Va. has kindly opened their home and their hearts to care for Rafaela and Dominga while they are here.
This is not the first time the Scott family has shared their home to patients in need. In 2011, the family hosted another Operation Smile World Care patient from India, Nur, and his uncle Nasi.
“My neighbor volunteers with Operation Smile and she sent out an email when Nur was coming, saying they were looking for host families,” said Libby, the host mother. “I said yes – it would be a great experience. I lived most of my life outside the United States (Zagreb, Moscow, Madrid, Brussels), and have traveled extensively, so I have a love for meeting people of other cultures. My kids were born in Belgium, but we moved while they were still young. I want them to continue to have a "global" existence, and to understand people of different cultures, socio-economic levels and ways of life. I also want them to always be conscious that not everyone lives as we (our family) do in the United States, but that we are all equal members of humanity. We want to give something back.”
Their lives are richer for the experience. “We've come to realize that hosting a World Care patient and their chaperone is not just letting someone stay in your house – it is growing the size of your family. Nur and his Uncle Nasi will always be family to us. Rafaela and her mother Dominga are now part of our family. You feel a richer connection to your community and the world through this experience. Plus, there is a sense of significant purpose when you're helping someone who truly needs help.”
“Operation Smile is an organization that creates the opportunity to do something for the greater good, such as funding surgeries; but also on a different level, it enriches all of the people who work to support that aim. It's a re-affirmation of the basic goodness of humanity.”
Some of her favorite memories from hosting the patients? “There are so many! Starting the Operation Smile Final Mile twice! Going to Washington D.C. with Nur and Nasi and touring the monuments and the zoo. Having a party for our son Cody's and Nasi's birthday and inviting their friends and lots of Operation Smile people. Watching Rafaela beat Cody on the X-Box after only a few minutes of playing. This is from a girl who has never even SEEN an X-Box before she arrived.”
They also value family time and lots of laughs around the dinner table both with Nur, and now with Rafaela. “People always seem to bond over food. We always end up mixing American, European, and the food of the patient's country!”
Something that Libby will never forget is seeing little Rafaela take off her shoes to dip her feet in the cold ocean water after the Final Mile – she was seeing the ocean for the very first time.
The Scott family’s children – Ben, Cody, and Emma – also shared their perspectives, and still keep in contact with Nur. “We get to experience each other’s cultures and Rafaela is really fun to play with. It's like a giant play-date or sleepover.”
But it is not all fun and games, they’ve also experienced rejection from schoolmates. “I invited Rafaela to sit at the guest table with me for lunch at school, and when I went to get my friends from the class table, they said they didn't want to sit with me because Rafaela was there,” shared Emma. “I told them ‘you don't understand. Rafaela's a good person. Don't judge a book by its cover.’”
Despite misjudgment by some; the community, the family, and especially the children, remain strong through the process.
Rafaela recently toured Cody’s junior high school, going to different classrooms with her mother and Operation Smile staff to educate students and share her story. Cody bravely gave the presentations in front of his curious peers, sharing his experiences and talking about bridging cultural barriers, and bringing more love into a family. “This has been the greatest thing we’ve done in our lives,” he proclaimed.
Tags: Donor Stories, World Care Patient, Volunteer Stories