In the field: Paraguay

Earlier this year, I was coordinating a medical trip in Paraguay with Operation Smile. Over the course of ten days, our medical team operated in the military hospital in Asuncion. It was an intense week with long hours, but rewarding as always. Throughout our time there, we had a guard assigned to watch over our team. A slight figure of not more than 22, was a being of few words. He didn’t need to verbally communicate to show that took his job extremely seriously. Always vigilant of our team, he stood by the Operating Room door for nearly 12 hours a day, stoically opening and closing it to those who were allowed through.

I often offered him treats, like I do to the whole team, though throughout the week he respectfully declined cookies, candy and coffee offered to him in the politest way possible.

As tradition holds, on the final day of surgery, we celebrated operating on almost 100 patients by holding a final party. The team arrived to the party location, the nearly finished Operation Smile Cleft Center, and we enjoyed the evening, dancing, giving speeches, and celebrating a week well done.

At the end of the evening my dear friend and fellow program coordinator Fatima came rushing up to me. “Guess who is here? Our guard! He is here to play violin for the team. He wanted to say thank you!”

As we gathered all of the volunteers into the front room, he asked Laura to translate for him.

“I wanted to say thank you to this team,” he said. “What you have done this week is amazing. I hope that you will enjoy this gift of Paraguayan music.”

I couldn’t believe it. This young man who had stood so stoic all week long had this incredible gift, and he longed to share it with us. We all watched, in awe, as he performed for us.