The Manila Student Chapter, the first student chapter under Operation Smile Philippines, have successfully launched their Wear A Smile campaign.
This campaign aims to raise funds and awareness for children with cleft lips and palates by selling smile bands made by The Stairway Foundation – an NGO that advocates for children’s rights and child care. The Smile Bands come in 3 different colors – blue, red, and black. Also, these bands are handmade!
Buying a Smile Band is helping another child smile again, so get your smile bands now and #wearasmile!
We are happy to announce that GIK “Gift In Kind” is now activated!
Let’s Welcome our first Donor Kratos Technologies.
To keep our cleft centers safe, Kratos Technologies have sent us their Ultra-Violet Germicidal Smart UVC Lamp that is proven to kill bacteria and purify the air. Kratos Technologies is our 2021 UV Light Donor for all our cleft centers!
As COVID19 is still in our country, it is important to have a safe and clean environment at all times. Let’s all take extra steps in ensuring the safety of our family.
Maraming Salamat @Kratos for Supporting Operation Smile Philippines Children!
Who would ever thought that a mirror could make one realize that he is exactly where he needs to be?
This is what Speech Pathologist Bal Ligot found out in 2005 as part of the volunteer team in Bataan.
Fernando Ligot or “Bal” to his family and friends is one of the longest-serving volunteers of Operation Smile Philippines. He has been in countless local surgical missions around the Philippines. Bal also regularly takes part in international surgical missions around the world. His expertise and compassion has also touched the lives of people across the globe.
The start of his journey
Bal had heard about Operation Smile while he was still in his teens. But it was in college at UP Manila that he got to meet Dr. Michael Van Lue, an American speech pathologist and volunteer for Operation Smile. Dr. VanLue was in the Philippines in 1999 and wanted to reach out to fellow speech therapists. At that time, UP was the only school offering speech pathology. After the meeting, Bal was invited to join a surgical mission the following year.
Being the son of a surgeon, Bal was familiar with the work surgeons do. But it was not until he entered the speech pathology program of UP Manila did he get to work and experience working with children with cleft lip and palate. And when he did join the Operation Smile surgical mission in 2000 in Cavite, he experienced first-hand the difference he can make in the lives of people.
What keeps him going
“Changing the lives not only of the patients but their families as well keeps me going.” This is what pushes Bal forward in his time with Operation Smile Philippines. It also helps that there is a whole community of Operation Smile volunteers driven by the same desire to help other people in need.
“Surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, speech therapists, dentists, and all the other volunteers – these people working together to help make the lives of these individuals better is what keeps me going.”, he said. He also added that the word “just” does not exist in the vocabulary of Operation Smile.
He explains, “ I do not believe in the word just” – “I am just a dentist” or “I am just a medical records person” or “I am just a nurse”. Each and every person in the mission team who is doing something to help make the life of another better is not “just” doing something, they are doing exactly what needs to be done. So I say – “I am a dentist” or “I am a medical records person” or “I am a nurse” add to that…” and I help change the lives of individuals with cleft lip and palate”. That idea is what keeps me going.”
Most unforgettable mission
Bal was in Balanga Bataan in 2005 when he saw a child looking at himself in the mirror after receiving cleft lip surgery. This seems like an ordinary and typical thing any patient would do after an operation. You would want to check how it went and what the operation looks like. But this was not the case.
Bal said that there wasn’t anything unusual about the scene. That is until the mother of the child with tears in her eyes said “he has never looked at himself in the mirror before his cleft lip was operated on until now”. The boy in the mirror was smiling back. This was when Bal realized that in that exact point in time, it was a life-changing moment for the boy, his mother, and for him.
“These extra-ordinary times, what used to be an ordinary task, became extra-ordinary”
These are the words of Dr. MIMI REYLES, an esteemed anaesthesiologist at Makati Medical Center, and a well-loved OSP volunteer. Together with thousands of healthcare workers, she risks her life every day to fulfill her duty.
Here’s her story as a doctor, wife, mother, and patient, caught in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Novel Coronavirus put our programs and our surgical outreach mission on hold. But our speech pathologists made sure that our patients still had access to much-needed speech therapy.
Sheryl A. Sibug – Wong, one of our longest-serving volunteers shared how “Teletherapy” allowed them to continue providing therapy sessions to OSP patients especially for those living in areas where speech therapy services are not readily accessible or available.
The program started when they realized that these patients will be going on for a long time without any post-surgery therapy they badly need. After identifying the online platform most patients are familiar with, they started reaching out and providing FREE speech therapy sessions to OSP patients.
The program included Direct Patient Care, Parent and Patient Training, as well as Provision of Home Program. As they moved through the initial struggles that his new approach brings, they are positive that the Teletherapy Program will create a positive impact in the lives of these kids and their families as well.
At a time when Operation Smile activities (missions, speech camps, activities in the cleft centers) are put on hold because of the pandemic, when some of our volunteer doctors, nurses, biomedical technicians are risking their lives in the frontline providing life-saving care to our fellowmen.
Are you wondering what are our volunteer speech-language pathologists doing? Well, while one on one speech therapy sessions are suspended, our volunteer speech-language pathologists continue what they do best, by providing opportunities for better communication by creating and distributing communication boards (Commboards).
What are communication boards? These are picture laden boards with functional words used by individuals who have difficulty talking because of some physical limitations. They have words like “pain”, “yes/no”, “hungry”, “thirsty”, words that can convey direct needs like the ones below;
The commboards have been translated into several languages such as Kapangpangan, Cebuano, Filipino, and Chinese. These are used by patients who have been intubated and are hooked to a ventilator which makes it difficult for them to talk. These boards become their mouthpieces to communicate their needs to the doctors, nurses, and caregivers.
Our speech pathology volunteers together with the Philippine Association of Speech Pathologists (PASP) AAC special interest group, the Speech-Language Pathologists of Cebu (SOC), volunteers from Davao, Pampanga, and Manila have distributed over 200 kits of communication boards in hospitals in the following hospitals:
Metro Manila (Chinese General Hospital and Sta. Ana Hospital)
Cebu (Cebu Doctors University Hospital, Cebu North General Hospital, Cebu South General Hospital, Mactan Doctors Hospital, Cebu Velez General Hospital, Chong Hua Hospital – Fuente, Chong Hua Hospital-Mandaue, Perpetual Succor Hospital, University of Cebu Medical Center, Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center and ARC Hospital)
Davao (Southern Philippines Medical Center, Davao Regional Medical Center, Integrated Provincial Hospital office, Maguindanao, Cotabato Regional and Medical Center, and the Metro Dave Medical and Research Center) and soon in the province of Pampanga.
As of April 18, 2020, the Cebu group has distributed 115 kits, the Davao speechies have distributed 156 kits, while around 30 kits have been distributed in both Chinese General and Sta. Ana hospitals respectively.
It is not easy to be in quarantine at home to avoid getting COVID-19. But what if you had to go to the one place you know you are at most risk – every single day? That is what RN Summer Evangelista has to go through on a daily basis.
Summer is one of the longest-serving Operation Smile Philippines’ (OSP) nursing volunteers. She has been donating her time and talent since 2003 for the organization. Needless to say, she has touched and changed the lives of countless children who underwent much-needed cleft surgery. She has seen lives transformed tight in front of her countless times.
At the frontlines against COVID-19
At present, Summer is a Unit Supervisor at the Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center. She heads a staff of 16 people right at the heart of the Surgical Intensive Care Unit. This is no easy task as she has to constantly be on top of her game. Not only does her staff rely on her leadership, but lives are also at stake with every medical decision she makes. Then the COVID-19 virus hit the country and she suddenly had a lot on her shoulders.
Much like most of her fellow OSP volunteers, Summer bravely faces the pandemic head-on. This is part of her sworn duty to practice her profession faithfully. Trying to stay at home is what most of the Filipino people are doing to try and flatten the curve. Summer suits up every day to report for work at the hospital to care for patients in need of urgent care.
It is a tough job
Being a nurse on a normal day is a tough task on its own. They have to face people who are probably having one of the worst days of their lives. When the novel coronavirus landed in the Philippines, their job became a lot more difficult. As much as PPE is needed, it is not easy to be wearing them the whole day. It is not uncommon to have it on for hours at a time. Summer mentions how she has seen her share of days where she is soaking wet from wearing PPE the whole day.
A close call
Risk is one thing she has to come to terms with as part of her job. With that, Summer recalls how a COVID-19 positive patient came through the hospital doors. This forced the whole ICU wing into self-quarantine for two weeks. More than taking care of herself, she made it a point to regularly check on her staff and reassure them that she is there if they need her.
Dealing with the mental stress
Summer shares also that one of the most challenging parts about the whole situation is the mental toll it brings. There are even times where she finds it hard to sleep at night knowing she has to report back for work the next day. It is not easy to push away thoughts about the possibility of getting infected. It has a way of getting to her emotionally, mentally, and physically.
One advantage Summer has is that she believes in the power of prayer. Praying is already a part of her daily habit. She never forgets to ask for protection and thank the Lord also for keeping her safe from the risks that her job entails. Before heading off to work, Summer always pauses for a moment and says a prayer.
Another thing that keeps her mind occupied when at home is baking. It helps keep her mind off of the stress and the fear of getting sick. It also helps her pass time and kill boredom as well. Checking up on her staff on how they are doing also helps fill up her day.
Think of WE
Summer also wants to emphasize the importance of staying at home for other people. She mentions that this is not about keeping one person safe but preventing a whole community from getting infected. Every action made by one person can have an effect on a lot of people. The concept of thinking about “WE” is crucial in helping flatten the curve.
“The realization of how life-changing Operation Smile’s mission can be resonated with my own personal experience and reinforced my belief that no child with a cleft lip and/or palate deserves to feel voiceless.”- Julia de Ocampo