Abdul and his mother came to the April medical mission in Ho, Ghana. (Photo courtesy of Maura Caravan)

By Maura Canavan, student volunteer

This is Abdul. He traveled from Accra to Ho, Ghana — about four hours by car — with his mom. When they got off the bus on screening day, you could tell he was the happiest baby ever. He enjoyed looking at everything around him, and he never fussed despite a long day of waiting. I sat next to him and began coloring as he was mesmerized by the different colors. As his mom was holding him, I said to her, “he is beautiful.” She replied, “not yet.”

Abdul’s mother learned about Operation Smile from her midwife when she gave birth. She was given a bracelet with the patient coordinator’s phone number on it so she could call and find out where and when missions were. Abdul and his mother had attended their first Operation Smile mission six months ago in Koforidua, but he was not able to receive surgery at the young age of two months. His mother was determined to get her son surgery and found out there was another Operation Smile mission in Ho six months later. She fed him everything she was told so her son would be healthy when she attended the next mission. At eight months old, Abdul was chosen to receive surgery.

She gave me a big hug and had a huge smile on her face, thanking Operation Smile for providing her son this life-changing surgery.

While talking to his mother during his surgery I learned that they lived in Accra, where she is a tailor. She explained the surgery costs in the city were outrageously expensive and she would never have been able to afford it. Abdul’s mother hopes she can send him to school in the future and that he can have a successful life after his bilateral cleft lip surgery Operation Smile provided him.

When I visited Abdul and his mother the morning after his surgery, you could tell how happy she was. She gave me a big hug and had a huge smile on her face, thanking Operation Smile for providing her son this life-changing surgery.

Maura is from Lawrence, New Jersey, and graduated from Lawrence High School in 2019. She got involved with Operation Smile since her freshman year, when she attended a Safe Surgery Summit at the school. She will begin her studies at the University of Maryland in the fall.