I have worked with Alliance for Smiles for over ten years now, and I am still blown away by what this organization accomplishes with such a small staff; and it is all because of the incredible volunteers! It really is a testament to what a wonderful organization this is that AfS can attract and keep such loyal volunteers, some of whom work countless hours each week to make sure that the medical missions can happen.
And having myself volunteered on several medical trips, it really is almost miraculous to see how a person with a cleft can be transformed by our medical teams. Also having been to several of the AfS treatment centers, I have witnessed how AfS is striving to provide comprehensive care to cleft children, beyond the initial surgery, which is so important.
One of the goals of Alliance for Smiles is to build bridges of international friendship, and I can attest that is exactly what is happening!
A friend of mine came across this organization and I immediately fell in love with their passion and hard work to change so many children's lives. As a volunteer you get invited on board and get valued tremendously for whatever skills you bring to the table. The level of trust, good spirit and professionalism within Alliance for Smiles is very high. It is truly an honor and a privilege to be part of an organization that makes a difference in the world, an organization who cares, an organization who always see the bigger picture and keep their focus on the cause: transforming lives around the globe.
I wrote this post just before my first mission trip with AfS in late January. I have since participated as mission photographer on two missions - one to Khulna Bangladesh, and one to Weining China. I cannot say enough good things about AfS.
Eyes, Lens, Heart, Smile – January 26, 2017
Through the eyes, lens, and heart of a first time volunteer for Alliance for Smiles.
My preparation for my upcoming trip to Bangladesh as mission photographer with the Alliance for Smiles team involved many lessons and practice sessions with Fowler on exactly how I must take the before and after photos of the patients, the photos just before surgery in the OR, the team, the environment, etc. These photos are needed to document the work done and to share what is being done on these missions. I also prepared to create daily briefings and a final slideshow. But additionally I learned a bit about how the team would interact and the logistics of the trip in general.
I have never even seen a child with a cleft lip. How will I react when I see the first one? I have never been in an operating room. I cannot even look at my arm when I am having blood drawn for routine tests. How am I going to react to all that will happen on the mission? I feel so committed and determined about how what I am doing is going to help so many people that I know I will be able to do it and do it well.
The mission director, Barbara, held a conference call for as many people on the team who were available Tuesday evening to discuss the travel to Bangladesh and some general information. There were about 15 of us who could participate. Because this is my first AfS mission trip, everything is new to me. There are some people who have been on many AfS missions, and some who are participating for the first time as I am. However, there has never before been a mission in Khulna Bangladesh so this will be a new experience for everyone. But even before the end of the 40 minute conference call, I could feel a team spirit among the members.
Here are some of the impressions I have from the communications thus far from my friend Pat, from Fowler, from Paul, and Barbara, and from my visits to the AfS website.
Respect – We are traveling to a foreign country and the people there have customs and a lifestyle that is different from our lifestyle. We must be mindful of the Bengali way of doing things. They are our hosts and we are ambassadors from the US, Australia, and other countries. This is all so important to me and I am delighted that the team embraces these important values.
Safety and Care – AfS and the Bengali Rotary members, who are sponsoring this mission, will do everything in their power to keep us safe. And, in the hospital, we will take every precaution to keep the environment safe and comfortable for the children and the families. And, our goal is to handle every situation, child, family member, and staff member is a way that results in zero complaints, zero complications, zero loose ends.
Equipment and Supplies – This actually is amazing! Last week I received an email with the list of medical and surgical supplies that we are taking with us to Bangladesh. Yes, we will have about 25 boxes to take on the planes. It seems to me that we will be going into an environment that has few supplies and we will be basically setting up operating rooms, and other hospital areas from scratch. And this leads to my impression of how AfS is doing everything to economically handle this situation. When traveling overseas by plane each traveler is allowed two bags free of charge. So, each team member will have one suitcase but for the second bag, we will each take one of those boxes of supplies. Brilliant!
Expenses and Money Handling – I must begin by saying that I have donated money to many organizations during my life and I often wonder where the money goes. How does that organization use my money in their operations? It is my impression that AfS is constantly mindful of the finances and does everything to make sound decisions evidenced by the way we are transporting the equipment and supplies.
Team Spirit – As mentioned before, I am already beginning to feel a team spirit and am so eager to meet my team members and begin our journey. As I meet people, I will try to introduce them and share their background and interests in these posts. I personally feel so fortunate to be involved in this adventure. It is a wonderful feeling to be able to be part of a team that will be transforming the life of many children and their families who would not be able to have these procedures without the efforts of Alliance for Smiles, the Rotary sponsors, and the special Khulna Bangladesh AfS team.
I've seen this company grow tremendously throughout the past year. The people within this field are eager to help those in need and are driven to do this. It's amazing to watch a group of people so passionate about one thing come together to help the lives of children and families in less fortunate countries. Can't wait to see what these guys will do in the coming years, I know it'll be positive.
I have been following the Alliance for Smiles organization for quite some time. I am constantly impressed by their generosity. Not only do they help children around the world, but they serve to improve the countries they visit by opening clinics and teaching the locals their techniques.
Great organization and can't wait to see what they accomplish in the future!
A friend of mine has been tirelessly active with Alliance for Smiles for many years, and I’ve always admired her passion for this cause. During their missions, they post updates, and before and after photos of the children with cleft abnormalities. When you see the transformation of these children and adults after their operations, it’s hard not to be profoundly moved. The life-changing work Alliance for Smiles does is truly awesome.
Their patients can now enjoy normal lives, are able to eat, will be understood when they speak, and will be protected from the many life-threatening problems they would have faced without this operation.
But it doesn’t end there. Their patients continue to need dental care, orthodontia, and speech therapy, and Alliance for Smiles has established treatment centers in many areas to follow-up the work after the missions are over. They train and monitor local health care providers about the needs of cleft lip and palate patients and assist when necessary.
Of all the for non-profit organizations out there, few could boast that 94% of all donated funds go directly to those in need. The Doctors, Nurses, and everyone on the team generously volunteer their time and expertise to help.
So, after observing for so long, I asked my friend what I could do to help. And I’m excited to say I’m going on a mission in October!
Your donations can help transform lives! Please consider donating anything you can today.
I have never worked for a nonprofit that has such a compassionate approach including how the board members appreciate the staff! The commitment to changing lives is palpable in the daily office setting and during international missions, the commitment, expertise and number of professionals who have taken 12 days on their own time to help save lives is simply astounding and so moving. Although this organization is small to medium sized, it has a huge reach and even bigger heart. I know my donations go directly to the kids because they keep their overhead at 6%!!
As a RN, I love working with this group. The plan to teach a local Physician to do the surgeries as well as teach the local nurses new skills, is very important to me. It equates to the teach a man to fish he'll eat forever, not just give him a fish for one meal. The high quality of care given by the AfS teams is exceptional.
I volunteered as an anesthesiologist for this organization on a recent trip to Dhaka, Bangladesh. I was impressed with the dedication of the staff and volunteers to provide repairs to cleft lips and palates that the children of Dhaka. The quality of care for these needy children was exceptional. A huge amount of work is done by this organization and the supporting help by Rotarians both in the US, Australia partnering with local Bangladesh Rotarians was inspiring!