I met Bao Zoma, mother of four and grandmother of seven, while taking a bike ride through the countryside of Madagascar. In September 2015, I joined Bao Zoma as she traveled to the Operation Smile medical mission in Tana with her middle grandchild, Sandra, who was in need of a cleft lip repair. Now that Sandra has a beautiful smile, Bao Zoma is motivated to find more children in need of critical surgical care and bring them to Operation Smile. She has become a spokesperson for Operation Smile in the part of her country where radios do not reach and many cannot read the posters that are taped up at the health huts around the village.
When asked what motivates her to find more children suffering from cleft lip and cleft palate, she responded: “My grandchild once suffered from cleft lip. My grandchild Sandra was teased, dropped out of school, and was a shy girl. Now I can’t keep her in the house, she has many friends, and is constantly smiling. She is beautiful. I would like to give that gift, the gift of smiling to others like Sandra.”
Bao Zoma recently recruited two other patients for the upcoming medical mission here in Madagascar in April.
She walked eight kilometers, crossed a river and hiked another two kilometers to reach these children– a young boy by the name of Gino and a young girl named Nordine. I am happy to report they will be joining me on the medical mission in April.
Thank you Bao Zoma, not only for serving as a spokesperson for Operation Smile, but also for being an amazing grandmother.
Check out my story on Operation Smile’s Blog: A grandmother’s wish
I have been blessed with the experience to intern at the local maternity clinic! The photos above are actually from a clinic 90 km north of my village. Unfortunately we do not have an ultrasound as of yet, therefore expecting mothers must travel 4 hours north to get an ultrasound. My friend Nasrine and I traveled north to check how far along she was and the position of her baby. She is having a boy! (Actually by the time this post goes up she will have already have given birth!)
I decided to focus my third year on interning, watching, and soaking up information in the local health clinics. I have sat through mother child consultations, helped with vaccines, and will be seeing my first birth this month!
First day in Mahajunga. (Large city North-East Madagascar- on the Mozambique Channel)
Walking around, snapping pictures left and right. Suddenly I realize something just isn’t right. I look at my camera, “NO CARD INSERTED”. My heart breaks… I forgot the SD card in my computer, from the night before.
I never realized how important taking pictures was to me. I literally find myself walking around snapping Polaroids with my eyes, framing scenes, portraits, looking at light, appreciating the tiny details.
Things that are generic and normal to some become extraordinary and picture worthy to me.
I ran back to the bungalows in the evening and swore to myself that I would never give myself a heartbreak like the one I had just experienced ever again.
Where I buy my fish….
At the far point of town, the water from the Canal meets the salt water from the Ocean. Every morning loads of small canoes paddle heavily through the huge waves to go out for the catch of the day. Being the fish eater and lover I am, I go out to this point to buy my fish. It has become a small ritual that I have come to love.
-How are you? How is your health?
-I am great. Here to buy fish.
-You love fish!
-Yes, it’s good for your health.
-Yes, MY fish is good for your health!
-Yes you are right 🙂
My conversations have become rituals, things that I have come to love and admire about this place I call home. This pictures are some of the regular children and women I meet on my morning fish purchases.
What is normal? What is okay? What is reality. After 2 years of living abroad I have seen myself, my attitude, and my values slowly change. I have noticed that my friendships have slowly come apart and my relationship with things “ back home” have changed drastically, I am not sure how to explain these feelings but can sum them up to be: relative. My world for the last 2 years has been revolved around helping others. While I have been here, I feel that it has been extremely difficult to keep frienships and relationships alive back home. I can only assume that it is because of the lack of relativeness between both lives. A wise PCV (peace Corps volunteer) once told me that it is harder to re-integrate into your community back home than it is to integrate into this community here. Seeing that I am coming up on my Close of Service, the though of re-integrtion is a scary one. My level of comfort with the simple life and current reality make it extremely difficult to imagine coming back to the States. I also look bak on all of the things I have been able to achieve here, whether successful or not successful, I have learned and grown tremendously through each experience. From organizing festivals with audiences amounting to 700 people to visiting the deep countryside reaching out to the poorest of the poor, and educating them about prevention methods to various diseases,
This country has changed me. It has opened my mind to a plethora of thoughts. I can confidently say that this is just the beginning of a long life of service. I am not sure where life will take me after peace corps. What I do know is it will involve serving others. It will involve giving my heart to those who need it most. The most fulfilling part of life is giving yourself, and that is what I intend to do.