This week, I had the wonderful opportunity to talk to a volunteer of one of
the most known community service projects in Panama, called Operation Smile.
This proyect seeks to treat children all over Panama who have been diagnosed with
a Cleft lip and Palate, which is when a baby is born with an opening in the lip and/or
roof of the mouth, referred to as palate. This program, which is one incorporated in
many different schools in Panama, such as Panamerican and Brader, gather funds
for these chidren in need and eventually grant them a surgery to treat their
Paola Sosa, who is 17 years old, a student in Brader School, has been involved
in this proyect since the end of 2013. We were able to discuss some of her
experiences and her own opinion on community service and dealing with
worldwide issues such as the one Operation Smile deals with. Here are some points
of our interview:
Question: What was your first step into this project?
Answer: I was never actually aware of the proyect as a whole, but I knew that my
school was very much involved in it.
Question: How were you introduced into the proyect? Was there someone in
particular who asked you to form a part of it?
Answer: I was actually introduced to it by the president of the proyect, Ivana
Jelenszky. She was in my school, and actually started by opening clubs at school,
which later on outgrew into a greater and fuller proyect. She told me to come with
her and some of my classmates that were already involved just to check it out. Once
I was in the hospital and saw all of the children, I fell in love with it.
Question: As a whole, what do you think it was that made Operation Smile such a big
thing in Panama as it is right now?
Answer: I think that this proyect has been given the attention and importance it has
today since it focuses on a disability that is very popular on babies at this time. I
learned that the probability of a kid having cleft lip and palate in Panama is very
high, since 1 out of 15 kids have it. The fact that the proyect focuses on this very
important issue already makes it something worth people’s attention. Also, the
incorporation of young people to the proyect draws a lot of attention too, since it
attracts the popular crowd and makes the proyect seem appealing, encouraging
more people to join.
Question: What has been one of the most memorable experieces you have lived in
your time as a volunteer in Operation Smile?
Answer: There is a program inside Operation Smile, called Smile’s on Board, where
each volunteer is given the opportunity to sponsor a child, and go through the whole
process of collecting funds and getting the surgery with him/her. As well, when
introduced to this program, a lot of people from other schools who are part of the
proyect come together to come up with activities and plans on how to interact with
the children while the process takes place. I think that getting to know people that
love to do what you do and have a conversation with them, get to know them, and
become part of such a potential proyect is such a good opportunity for people of our
age and those who have community service in their list of interests. As well, getting
to sponsor a child opens up your mind to the issues going around u, which
sometimes are taken for granted and ingnored, when actually, they are of much
Thank you Paola, for an awesome interview and a small part of your time!