October 2016, Fengkai, Guangdong
Xie Zhen from CLP Group, Story Collector, China
What is really important in life?
This was my first mission with Beam and I was so thrilled to be a part of this great cause. We often take what we have for granted and don‘t appreciate or realise what is really meaningful in life. We often seem to forget what life is really all about.
Seeing the joy and sense of accomplishment in the parent’s eyes, made this trip worthwhile. Seeing a grown-up man in his 50‘s smile and feel confident for the first time in his life made you think what a smile meant to him. Seeing the reaction of a mother when she saw her 6-month-old baby, gave her the hope and conviction that her baby would have a normal life, just like the rest of the kids in her village.
I listened to so many stories of struggle the families endured bringing their children to Liangshan for the hope and chance of a surgery which they would never be able to afford. It was obvious that most of these kids had never seen a doctor in their lives. I saw the daily struggle and hardship they went through in order to see their most beloved children smile again.
What is really important in life?
Thank you medical volunteers for your efforts and dedication. You are the real heroes. Thank you.
在此感謝醫療志願者們的努力和貢獻。 你們是真正的英雄！ 謝謝！
July 2015, Liangshan, Sichuan
Hoss Vetry from The Ritz-Carlton – Sanya, Yalong Bay, Child Life Coordinator
My Trip to Fengkai
Night was falling. We embarked on a journey to Fengkai, China to support Beam, an organization which offers free surgeries to children with cleft lips. It was a five-hour ride, and I was very excited for it was my first time there.
I embraced the morning with much excitement and eagerness. We arrived at the hospital and a crowd of reporters swarmed in as if we were some kind of movie stars. I felt as proud as a peacock to be part of this meaningful event. I was terrified to see hundreds of patients from miles away racing towards us. My heart sank as I saw the desperate looks of the poor children.
My major duties at the hospital were to play with the little children and distribute toys to them, bringing them joy and happiness. Their laughter warmed my heart. When they entered the operation room, I was as anxious as their parents, but seeing them return safely was a relief.
I spent my whole weekend there. Through this experience, I realized that we are very fortunate and we should volunteer more to help others in need.
October 2015, Fengkai, Guangdong
Ashley Tong, Student Volunteer, Hong Kong
The 1,000th Smile in Fengkai
Earlier this October, it’s the second time for the Kong family (孔家) to join our Fengkai Mission seeking free surgical treatment for their son Chui Jin (垂津). In the 7th month of pregnancy, the couple were much shocked and helpless when the doctor said their child would have cleft lip and cleft palate. When Chui Jin was just two months old last year, his parents already rushed to our medical mission but were sadly turned down because he was too young to receive the surgery then.
In 2015, having gotten a 10-day leave from work, the father Kong Wei Xin (孔維信) and mother Lu Yong Chan (呂永嬋) took Chui Jin to Tang Guo-hua Hospital again. This little boy was eventually arranged for his first cleft surgery – also the 1,000th smile we created together with our volunteers throughout the past nine years in Fengkai, Guangdong. It is always not easy for us to mobilise volunteers around the world to organise each medical mission; it’s equally challenging for the needy parents to fight for suitable medical treatment for their children with clefts. No matter what, none of us would give up on helping them BEAM again as their smiles are the best reward of everything, and we look forward to changing more lives with the support of you all in future.
October 2015, Fengkai, Guangdong
Linda Wong from CLP Group, Story Collector, Hong Kong
“I have to carry on!”
The beautiful smiles we create count on the concerted efforts of each and every supporter. Our long-term volunteer Jenny Chadwick, who has just completed her sixth mission in Fengkai in October 2015, is definitely included.
A British teacher of the Chinese International School (CIS, 漢基國際學校) in Hong Kong, Jenny got to know Beam International Foundation (formerly named as “Operation Smile China Medical Mission”) 13 years ago. “I was the Head of Year 8, and found it a worthy cause to help the needy children suffering from clefts, so we named it as the Year 8 charity then.” She said a lot of things were done, such as organising the “Wear A Smile Day”, to raise over HK$100,000 in support of our medical service. Jenny also went for her first medical mission in Guangdong with five CIS students.“ I was so shocked that I just couldn’t believe some Chinese people didn’t have the money to do the surgery. I told myself that I have to carry on!” From then on, our yearly collaboration with CIS was initiated.
We change both smiles and lives of the needy patients through our medical mission, and Jenny believes that the more students who can have this life-changing experience the better. Besides setting up the Smile Club with our Student Programme Leader Rachel Sutcliffe in CIS, Jenny is eager to arrange senior students to volunteer to our mission during the school’s Service Week because they can be part of a real team to contribute. Having students helping in the operating theatre, ward and child life area this year, Jenny is proud of their performance throughout the mission indeed.
October 2015, Fengkai, Guangdong
Jenny Chadwick from Chinese International School, Child Life Coordinator, Hong Kong
Never too ‘old’ to smile
His name is Li Peng, and at the age of sixteen he’s a little older than most of the other Beam applicants. This is something that he has evidently noticed, apparent in the slight flush to his cheeks and the nervous tremor in his voice. He seems a little reluctant at first to be interviewed, and more than slightly put off by the camera aimed at his direction. But with a little coaxing and a warm smile, he quickly comes out of his shell and his resilient, optimistic character shines through!
Li Peng has had a hard life, at least from our perspective. Born and raised in a small mountain town twenty-four hours (by bus) away from Fengkai County, he has since early childhood been the subject of endless taunts and ridicule from his peers due to his cleft lip. It even appears that he is somewhat of an embarrassment to his own family, who hide him away when they can and advise him to limit his public appearances. However, his cleft lip is rarely brought up at home and never mentioned in front of his grandparents, who seem to be in denial about the fact that he has a mild facial deformity!
“It’s understandable,” he says, a slight smile playing on his lips. “My mother is worried enough – constantly muttering to herself about how I’m supposed to marry and keep our family name alive with my condition. I wouldn’t want my grandparents involved, it would make things even worse!”
Despite an adolescent that is not exactly perfect, Li Peng has a sunny personality and is always looking on the bright side. He counts himself extremely lucky to be able to go to Fengkai, and very blessed to have been approved for the operation that will fix his cleft lip!
“I was so worried that I would be too ‘old’ to receive a surgery. I feel so fortunate to be able to have the operation, and I’m so excited to look in a mirror when it is over!” When asked what he plans on doing in the future, Li Peng had only one answer – he doesn’t mind what his job will eventually be (although he says it is more than likely that he will follow his father’s footsteps and become a farmer), as long as he is able to smile all day long.
October 2014, Fengkai, Guangdong
Florence Wang from Chinese International School, Patient Imaging Technician Assistant, Hong Kong
Changing a child’s life can change a family
This patient and her grandparents are Fengkai locals. She had a bilateral complete cleft lip. The patient and her grandparents were waiting in the playroom for her cleft lip surgery when we interviewed them. She has not started school yet. Her parents were not with her because they had to go to work on her surgery day. Her grandparents admitted that sometimes they faced difficulties when taking care of her because of her cleft lip, as she drooled a lot, and it was not easy to hear what she was trying to say. Her grandparents said they were hopeful and excited for her surgery.
I think the trip was very meaningful. It gave me the opportunity to see children who were born with certain deformities and the situations of their families. These were the less fortunate families in China. They were mostly very poor and could not afford to pay for such surgeries in private hospitals to help their children. It made me realize how fortunate I am, and how I take too many things I have for granted. The trip also gave me the opportunity to see an actual surgery, a chance I may not receive again for the rest of my life. I was working as a translator in the recovery room (i.e. the room where patients were sent to immediately after surgeries for their vital signs to be measured). Working in the recovery room gave me the chance to see patients and their families’ reactions after going through surgeries. I was able to compare the differences in terms of appearance between pre-operation patients and post-operation patients. I think the surgeries were life changing for the patients and their families, as their cleft lips or palates could be fixed. They would no longer be labeled in society, and younger children would be able to correct their ways of speaking and to express themselves clearly.
October 2014, Fengkai, Guandong
Ellen Chan from Chinese International School, Recovery Room Assistant and Translator, Hong Kong
The surgeons are going to fix my face to help me look beautiful.
My first mission is complete and it was an amazing experience. I felt very humbled to be involved with such a big international team with a wide variety of experience. I particularly enjoyed seeing how the Chinese culturally interact with their children with so much love and affection. Although there was a language barrier I was still able to share a joke and laugh with the families when their child did something funny. What really struck me was how appreciative that these families are for what we are doing for their child’s life. I had lots of fun getting to know the children in the play area and engaging them with different activities that some of them don’t normally get the chance to do.
One particular child really struck me when she started talking to her mother. It appeared that she was asking how to spell something and then she proceeded to write in Chinese on her picture I asked a translator if she could read what it said and what had been written was. ‘The surgeons are going to fix my face to help me look beautiful. Thank you’. It really hit me that these children don’t feel like they can fit in with the way they look and what she wrote has really stuck with me.
I am hoping to continue to do many more missions as a child life specialist.
October 2013, Fengkai, Guangdong
Vicki Brown, Child Life Specialist, UK