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Volunteer Story Sweden

The Gift That Keeps Giving with Nurse Andréa Berg

Photo courtesy of Andréa Berg.

Our promise of improving health and dignity during the COVID-19 pandemic endures. We're helping front-line health workers stay safe, nourished and empowered to better serve their patients by providing life-saving supplies and equipment, as well as remote training to bolster their response. We’re also providing nutritional assistance, hygiene kits and virtual health services to support people and their health needs so they can thrive. If you can, when you can, help us keep our promise to care for children and create hope for tomorrow.

The moment Andréa Berg joined Operation Smile, she knew it would become her second home.  

For the last nine years, Andréa has made a difference in the lives of patients as a nurse for Operation Smile Sweden, her home country.

Based in London for 12 years, prior to joining Operation Smile’s mission, Andréa worked as a travel agent before becoming a health care assistant.  

Amidst her busy work schedule, Andréa searched for ways she could serve and contribute to those around her. She decided to help the homeless.  

One day, her manager in London had encouraged her to pursue nursing training.  

Upon returning to Sweden, Andrea decided to pursue this new aspiration. However, with her experience of helping the homeless in London, she felt a strong calling to continue her volunteer work while also keeping up her progress in learning English.

Volunteer nurse Andréa Berg examining a patient during a 2016 medical mission in Jimma, Ethiopia. Photo: Jörgen Hildebrandt.

Why Operation Smile?  

Andréa explained to us, “Operation Smile is a humanitarian organization where medical needs come first.”

Andréa’s personal connection to Operation Smile’s mission runs deeper than most.

Her younger sister was born with a cleft palate and received the treatment she needed to live a fulfilling and happy life.  

Years following her sister’s surgery, grateful toward the medical team who cared for her sister, Andréa felt inspired to offer the same opportunities to children in need of cleft care so that no one like her sister would be left without receiving surgeries and treatment.

Andréa shows a patient their new smile after surgery during a 2016 medical mission in Jimma, Ethiopia. Photo: Jörgen Hildebrandt.

While currently a full-time nurse in the emergency department of her hospital in Sweden, Andréa has dedicated herself to providing health care for Operation Smile since 2011.  

Operation Smile nurses are the only medical volunteer who actively provides care for patients throughout every stage of the mission process, including the first interaction during screening and all the way to the post-operative ward after surgery.

But for Andréa, Operation Smile means so much more than surgery.

Photo: Jörgen Hildebrandt.

It’s about giving the children a new life and newfound hope that they didn’t see was possible.

It isn’t just about the procedure — spending time with the children is when Andréa says she builds most human connections.  

Whether it’s playing with the patients, nurturing them with words of encouragement and love, or giving them more reasons to smile, “The smiles, hearts and tears you receive from parents ... the confidence you get from the teenage boys after surgery, the pride you can see in their eyes. It’s such a difference from when you see them before surgery. Prior to surgery, all they wanted to do is hide,” Andréa said.

Operation Smile Sweden Content Producer Susan Isberg spoke of Andréa, “Andréa Berg, amazing and truly outstanding in her way to bring good spirits to the volunteer team on a mission. With a good sense of humor, she creates a very friendly and including atmosphere for all the volunteers, which makes work a joy for everyone on the team.

“Her energy really wears off on others. At the same time, including and cheering patients and parents – always with a hand puppet in her pocket, ready to cheer up the youngest. It’s a joy for volunteers and patients to be around Andréa.”

Photo courtesy of Andréa Berg.

The pandemic has presented its challenges, suspending international travel, missions and care delivery.

However, in one of the few countries that did not shut down, Andréa found this as an opportunity to work even harder and dedicate herself even more to her nursing craft.

Andréa hopes to continue her missions with Operation Smile once restrictions are lifted and travel can resume. 

Alongside the World Health Organization, we can’t thank our nurses enough for bringing their incredible knowledge, work and compassion to the table to give the utmost care to the children.

With grateful hearts, Operation Smile celebrates nurses like Andréa who always put the patient's care first.

Hope is being spread, and the bond formed from connecting one experience to another creates lasting, unforgettable memories.  

From heart to heart, Andrea’s gift of giving comes full circle.

Photo courtesy of Andréa Berg.

MAKE A GIFT

It takes as little as $240 and as few as 45 minutes to provide life-changing surgery and a bright, beautiful new smile to a waiting child.