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Isaiah

When Isaiah was born 4 months ago with a severe cleft lip, the staff in the maternity ward informed his mother, Maria, that Austin Smiles might be able to help him during the scheduled trip to El Salvador in June. She had hope. Maria and her baby Isaiah live more than hour away from the military hospital in San Salvador.   She decided it was important for her to bring him to have surgery  – “I want him to be like all the other kids.”  Maria’s sister accompanied them to San Salvador.  She shared, “Others in the community are not necessarily supportive of her – but I see the love that she has for him… I love her and want to be here to support her in her time of need.” Maria and Isaiah arrive for pre-op triage at 6 a.m. with the 10 other patients for the day. Triage feels a bit like “organized chaos” but quickly the medical volunteers...

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“He’s smarter than I thought!” ~ Claire Fason

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” ~ Benjamin Franklin Volunteering is often a transformative experience – we gain as much if not more than we give. This Austin Smiles trip no doubt will be a particularly transformative experience for the five of us who have been fortunate to include our own teenagers in this journey as fellow team members. To begin the week, I have asked each parent and child to share their hopes and expectations for the experience and look forward to sharing each pairs’ reflection late this week. Holly Clause & Anton Stoebner (Anesthesiologist & All-Around Volunteer) Holly first served Austin Smiles as a Resident many years ago, and now returns as an integral part of the Medical Team. As Anton enters high school, Holly hopes this trip helps Anton understand that there are many people less fortunate than he is and that “even the smallest action as...

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June 7 – Hope

“Hope lies in dreams, in imagination, and in the courage of those who dare to make dreams into a reality.” ~ Jonas Salk Cameras flashed and there were welcoming embraces from our hosts this morning as our team of 42 Austin Smiles volunteers arrived at the hospital for the first visit. The overwhelming celebrity-style welcome from hospital staff and our hosts – the Club Rotario San Salvador Cuscatlan (Rotary Club) was evidence of the success of prior visits and the anticipation of our arrival. We also caught our first glimpse of the dozens of hopeful families lining the walkway, waiting for our team to get to work. After a brief tour of the work areas (triage, OR, PACU/Recovery Room and Post-Op), Dr. Pat Beckham, one of Austin Smiles’ Founding Surgeons, gave a welcome and thoughtful reminder that the “Team” this week includes all those here, and the many friends, families, and donors in Austin who have made it possible for...

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Austin Smiles El Salvador Trip June 2015

Warm hugs, bright smiles, and a few yawns welcomed the 43rd Austin Smiles’ Team to Austin Bergstrom Airport early this morning. Amid the piles of personal luggage and red supply trunks, Kendyl, Martha & Leilani sorted people, passports and boarding passes through the check in process. Veteran trip members reconnected with one another, reminiscing about past trips and adventures while rookies listened intently, eager to join the team. After a pit stop in Houston, where several more teammates joined, we arrived in El Salvador, greeted by our ground support staff and a newfound distaste for humidity. We piled into vans and began the trek to San Salvador, marveling at the landscape. Along the route we were surprised by one man juggling machetes while another breathed fire nearby. Having arrived safely at the hotel, we enjoyed more time getting acquainted and catching  up at dinners together  before calling it an early night in preparation for tomorrow’s busy day of set up...

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