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Volunteer Story Bolivia

A Leading Woman in Health Care: Q&A with Volunteer Jackeline Nuñez del Prado

Volunteer nurse Jackeline Nuñez del Prado of Bolivia on the third day of surgery during the March 2020 Women in Medicine: Inspiring a Generation medical mission in Morocco. Photo: Jasmin Shah.

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.

Looking back on the past 16 years as a volunteer, Jackeline Nuñez del Prado shared how her fulfillment of being a female nurse and surgeon stemmed from the joy she felt at seeing a patient smile after surgery.   

Despite having volunteered on more than 40 medical missions, Jackeline explained that she felt equally empowered on her last mission with Operation Smile as she did on her first.

“People are used to saying that we help children, but it’s the other way around. They help us,” Jackeline said. “Our hearts are recharged with love in every mission. I feel that I can be a better person.”

During International Women’s Day in March 2020, Jackeline – along with more than 50 volunteers from 25 countries – joined forces for Operation Smile’s first medical mission comprised of all female volunteers: Women in Medicine: Inspiring a Generation.

Standing side by side with some of the most talented and highly qualified medical professionals on a day dedicated to raising awareness about equality and celebrating the achievements of women was a moment Jackeline will remember forever.  

“It’s a wonderful experience for me. I'm very happy to be with all these women, using their knowledge and their love for the kids in Morocco,” she said. “I owe my whole life to Operation Smile.”

We sat down with Jackeline to hear how she felt to be on Operation Smile’s first all-female medical team as well as what motivated her to continue her education and pursue the opportunity to become a surgeon.

Photo: Jasmin Shah.

Q: As you contribute your skills and expertise as a nurse on Operation Smile medical missions, how does it feel to know that you're changing the lives of these children and their families?

A: “In my experience with Operation Smile in all these years, people are used to saying that we help children, but it’s the other way round. They help us. Every mission that I have had the opportunity to join, I feel that my heart is filled with love. When we’re full of love, we go out into our ordinary lives to share that love that we received. Our hearts are recharged with love in every mission. I feel that I can be a better person. It’s because of our patients that God gives us the strength to continue doing what we were born to do.”

Q: As we celebrate International Women’s Day, how does it feel to have been a part of Operation Smile’s first all-female medical mission: Women in Medicine: Inspiring a Generation?

A: “It’s a wonderful experience for me. I'm very happy to be with all these women, using their knowledge and their love for the kids in Morocco. I want to thank Operation Smile Bolivia for giving me this opportunity of being here to share with the children all the love that I bring from my fellow nurses who make an effort every day.

“It’s not easy for nurses to leave work behind to be able to be a volunteer with Operation Smile. They donate time, they also give their family time. They take a little bit of that time to share with the children, to be able to be a part of this magical experience that we've had. We all have so much love, so much affection. We have many reasons to be proud and grateful for this opportunity to share what we feel for them.”

Jackeline receives a kiss from a patient during screening at a 2019 Operation Smile medical mission in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Photo: Rohanna Mertens.

Q: Can you tell us a particular story or moment with a patient that touched your heart as a volunteer?

A: “I have many stories! During the women’s mission, there was a patient. She was 8 months old and had a cleft lip and palate. Her mother came from very far away, walking and taking a truck. The child was selected for surgery and checked into the hospital. I entered the room to welcome everyone and offered some of the toys I had brought to share. When the girl saw me, she opened her arms and asked me to pick her up. She didn’t even reach for the toy. She just hugged me.  

“The mother, with tears in her eyes, told me that the girl was always insecure and was always scared. When she hugged me, the mother and I were so moved. We cried together. She told me that it was her belief that God was blessing me because the child was able to perceive His love and sincerity in me. This filled my heart with such joy. I told her I also had a daughter, and she was the one who sent the toys. We made a video together so my daughter could see, and I was so moved by the connection between mothers and daughters. The sincere love of that girl and her mother made me feel my purpose, and I felt fortunate to be a part of this magic and part of this change. Maybe she won’t remember me, but I will never forget her.”

Q: What inspires you to continue volunteering for Operation Smile?  

A: “Operation Smile changed my life. It gave me the opportunity to see things in a different way. I don’t necessarily feel like I'm helping others. Everyone is helping me be the best person I can be: more sensitive, more compassionate, to value life and the people around me. I intend to give my patients the same treatment with love that I learned from all the Operation Smile doctors — they were my inspiration to continue my studies to become a doctor. They say that behind every great doctor there’s a great nurse, and I’m happy because I can be both.  

“I thank God for giving me the opportunity to be part of the foundation that I love with my life, and I will always be grateful for being part of the magic of creating smiles in the lives of patients and in my life as well. I owe my whole life to Operation Smile.”

Help us to continue keeping our promise to patients amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Your support today means we can help children living with cleft conditions through these uncertain times and provide them with the care and surgery they deserve when it's safe to resume our work.

Photo: Jasmin Shah.

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