Braam shares his experiences of his recent trip to Malawi to assist in another Operation Smile mission. He shares how we can all do one thing to change lives, one smile at a time.

In August I returned from Malawi after attending an Operation Smile mission where 152 children received a life-changing gift. Six surgeons worked tirelessly for six days, performing corrective facial reconstruction on children and youth who had sadly been born with cleft palate and cleft lip deformities.

Yet, I returned home tired and sad. Whilst in Lilongwe, amongst all the children I spotted a little angel, a girl of six years old, Mdalakwange (which means ‘Problem’ in English), instantly became a favourite of mine. Although she had a really disfigured mouth, she smiled all the time. With permission, we filmed her and followed what I believed would be a beautiful journey of change. After doing all the medical screening tests I waited anxiously while her mom and I paged through the lists of who would receive surgery…and there, right near the bottom of the final page, was her name! I had tears of joy, as did her mom.

With an interpreter, I asked Mdalakwange’s mom why she had named her ‘Problem’. She said that this is what God had given her in this child…a problem. I suggested that now she was to receive surgery, perhaps she would like to change her name? She looked at the interpreter and then at me. “What would I like to call her?” she asked. Wow! The spontaneous word that came to my mind, and which I said softly, was “Grace”. And so it was that Problem became Grace…or so I thought!

Just a day before her operation I sat laughing with her. I noticed she was coughing quite badly and called the paediatrician over. Our little girl indeed had a problem…pneumonia!
And so it was, as they got on the bus to return to their rural village, without having received surgery, that her mom said, “this is why she is Problem”. Tears of sadness this time, as the heavy blow of what had happened hit home.

But, as I always say, “what is life without hope”. And so I will return to Malawi in July 2014 with the next Operation Smile mission. I will laugh again with our little Mdalakwange I will carry her into theatre and watch her life change…and we will all cry happy tears when Chisomo looks at her new face in the mirror after her surgery!

YOU can make a real difference over this festive season by getting a MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet card at the till in any Woolies store. Nominate Operation Smile as your beneficiary. Every time you swipe, you make a positive difference to a child…and it costs you nothing! D.O.T. and Do One Thing today to bring a smile to a child.

Every Swipe Counts!