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Review for Alliance For Smiles, San Francisco, CA, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

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.

Shelly Rosenberg

Role:  Volunteer