Having to choose a career path course is challenging for most young people, but Operation Smile made it easy for George Rugabanda: Witnessing Operation Smile’s work in his country of Rwanda has motivated him to pursue his higher education in medicine.
“My passion is to help people in my community, and that is what Operation Smile does,” said George, a high school student and an Operation Smile club leader.
Now George finds himself in Lima, Peru — 7,000 miles away from home — taking part in Operation Smile’s 2023 International Student Leadership Conference (ISLC) and learning how to serve as an even better advocate for Operation Smile’s patients.
When someone is passionate about something, George said, you’re willing and excited to do the work (even if that means flying hours to a conference on another continent). Having to travel from Rwanda to Peru only shows how dedicated he is to the cause and how much potential he has to bring change in his community and empower other students to be leaders and advocates, too.
“Our club in Rwanda has about 70 members,” George said. “When Carlos from Student Programs visited us, it was one of the best days, and most people were willing to learn more about Operation Smile and become active members.”
George is very excited about the opportunity he has been given to meet in person with his fellow youths from different countries at ISLC, and he looks forward to applying lessons learned from the conference taking what he will learn back home.
This is the beginning of a larger community of leaders and advocates; “this is why I would like to bring in more student volunteers through what I will learn at ISLC,” he said.
“Running a club is challenging compared to starting one because not everyone is committed,” George said. “ I would like to learn more about Operation Smile at ISLC and be able to share knowledge with other leaders for us to be able to teach club members in Rwanda and initiate more clubs in the country.”
George might have found his career path thanks to Operation Smile — and he hopes it can help him discover his talents, too.
“I look forward to the talent show (at ISLC) because I do not know my talent yet, and I would like to watch what others can do; who knows, maybe mine is to just watch,” he said, laughing.
By Promise Chipeta, ISLC media intern