Meet Darlene of Ghana

Editor’s note: Our “Around the World” series started with a simple idea: Let’s connect two Operation Smile volunteers from two different countries and learn more about the impact they’ve had through the organization. The powerful stories and deep connections that came from these conversations were so inspiring that we wanted to share our favorite moments here on our blog. Subscribe to the Operation Smile Student Programs YouTube channel to watch this episode and more from this series.

On our fifth episode of “Around the World Wednesday,” Naicy from the UAE is joined by Darlene of Accra, Ghana, who’s studying health and societies at the University of Ghana. Darlene has been a student volunteer for around five years and first learned about Operation Smile through a friend who wanted to put on a fundraiser for the cause! Watch the episode to learn more about the event, Darlene’s medical mission, and how she fell in love with Operation Smile as we all have!

A few gems from Naicy and Darlene’s conversation:

  • We all have some aspect of our work that pulls us in. Darlene shares her favorite aspect of volunteering for Operation Smile and what really drew her into the organization: “One of my favorite things ever is being able to interact with the patients, and it’s always so fulfilling to get to know these beautiful people. They have so much to share, their stories are incredible, and each and every trip I’ve been on I’ve always valued those conversations with them … I’ve really changed the way I view the world and how I view people.” 
  • Darlene shares her favorite memory with Operation Smile and how it continues to drive her involvement as a student volunteer: “I went to a trip in 2018 (in Ho, Ghana) and met the cutest baby boy ever. His name was Prince, and we were literally glued to each other for the whole trip, from the beginning to the end. I spent so much time with him, getting to know his family, and just getting to know him. As time went by we just got so familiar with each other that it was like a bond that I didn’t want to break. I literally didn’t want to leave. Sometimes I look back at those pictures that I have of him and all those memories I formed with him and it just makes me so happy and feel so fulfilled.”
  • Just as we give to Operation Smile, Operation Smile gives back to us. We have all gained so many memories and lessons learned through our involvement with such an incredible organization. Darlene, being no exception, shares her most vital lesson gained from her involvement: “Every single life is valuable. One of the things you would often hear at these medical missions is that people felt alienated or they were shunned from their communities for being different or looking different. Sometimes they would be referred to as ‘curses’ or ‘witches’. You name any negative word you can think of, that is what they were called, and it kind of pushed this idea that their lives were less meaningful; that they weren’t real people.” Operation Smile values the dignity of each person and the unique gifts they have.