Having spent nearly two years with Operation Smile, most recently on a medical project in Morocco, arriving at Aldrich’s office near Moorgate was quite a change. The buzz of industry in the City is palpable and could not have been more different from the dusty streets of Marrakech. Although the weather in Morocco was amazing, nothing can match the atmosphere of the City of London. The feeling of commerce is in the air and I was so excited for my first day yesterday.
The 6 day project in Marrakech was organised by Operation Smile, a global NGO based in the US. Operation Smile is a children’s medical charity dedicated to providing free, safe and timely surgery for children born with facial deformities including cleft lip and cleft palate. Here in the UK, everyone has access to surgery but in many developing countries, high quality surgical care is only accessible to the privileged few. Life with a facial deformity in a country like Morocco is incredibly hard. Stigma is rife and in many of the rural communities, children are denied access to education because of their birth defect.
Operation Smile have worked in over 50 countries, changing lives by proving cleft surgery which takes just 45 minutes and can cost as little as £150.
My role in Marrakech was to help patients and their parents through the entire process from registration to post-surgery. Many of the patients did not speak English, French or Arabic, only Berber as well as being completely illiterate. As you can imagine, trying to collect all the information the surgeons needed (including medical records, personal details and potential allergies) from people who had never seen a doctor before was quite challenging at times. Adding to this, the team of volunteers with whom I was working with were from all over the world, where standard medical practices are different. Against the odds, the mission was incredibly well run and surgery was provided for at least 160 children, changing their lives forever.
I had a great time working for Operation Smile in London and volunteering in Morocco but am so excited to be starting my new role at Aldrich.