New Smiles in Ouarzazate
Jack, and Margaret O'Keeffe volunteering at the Medical Records table in Ouarzazate
Operation Smile Ireland Chairman, Jack O’Keeffe, reminisces on his mission experience in Ouarzazate, Morocco.
In March 2016, I had the opportunity to attend my first medical mission with Operation Smile in Ouarzazate, Morocco. Having been involved with the organisation for several years, I felt I had a good understanding of the great work being undertaken, but like many things in life, nothing can prepare you for the real thing.
Jack, and Margaret O'Keeffe (centre), with Irish Anaesthetist, Dr. Dermot Gowan, and Irish Plastic Surgeon, Dr. Eoin O'Broin in Ouarzazate
Our Irish team of four, including plastic surgeon Dr. Eoin O’Broin and anaesthetist Dr. Dermot Gowan, arrived in Ouarzazate and hit the ground running. I was immediately impressed by the military like precision and professionalism of the operation. We had a team of about 100 volunteer doctors and nurses, many from Morocco, but also from all over the world. Despite many of the team only having met each other for the first time they gelled together almost effortlessly, all rowing together towards a common goal. Their commitment was humbling and truly inspirational.
Then there were the families. As a father of four, I can only imagine the pain that must come with the hopeless situation that many of Operation Smile’s patients and their families find themselves in. Being born in a poor country with cleft lip or cleft palate can be a life sentence of misery and isolation. Witnessing the joy and relief of the parents who brought their children to the Operation Smile mission for free treatment of the highest standard was a great privilege. Sending them on their way after a 45 minute surgery that costs only €180 with bright futures ahead of them, well let’s just say I’ve worked in the financial sector for my career, and I’ve rarely seen such a sound return on investment - thank you to all our donors, who make this investment possible.
Watching good people from widely different cultures, but with similar values, come together to alleviate the pain and suffering of children reminded me that what we have in common is far greater than what divides us. I left Morocco feeling empowered to play my role to help as many children as possible, and with a great sense of hope for the future.
The Board of Directors of Operation Smile Ireland is completely voluntary, and no Director receives payment of any kind from his or her involvement.