This morning Rosalie handed me a pin with the words “A smile lasts forever” surrounding the Rotary wheel. There was a quote on the backing paper that really brings home what a Rotaplast Mission is all about. It says: Too often we underestimate the power of touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” (Leo Buscaglia). Here in Cebu there are acts of caring all around, especially at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center where Rotaplast, in conjunction with the Rotary Club of Cebu Port Center has been busy.

On Friday, a cute little guy called Nelson with an enormous smile tore at the heartstrings of the post-anaesthesia care unit assistant, Marnee, and sent her on a journey she wasn’t quite expecting. Nelson is two; he has both a cleft lip and a cleft palate, but nothing can get in the way of this little charmer’s happy personality.

Each time Marnee went into the ward where he awaited his surgery, his arms went up and his face broke into a sparkling smile. She was his. In fact, she laughs, “He had me at ‘hello’”! “You can call me Nene,” she told the playful little fellow. Today, Marnee followed Nelson’s surgeon (Dr. Bill) into the Operating Room, and she was there to meet his mom when he emerged from the anaesthetic. When Nelson’s mother saw her baby, the tears welled, and that’s when it all came rolling home for Marnee. The two very new teary-eyed friends bonded there in the recovery room, as they held a sleepy Nelson between them. Marnee took the beaming mother and her dramatically changed baby back to the post-op ward and helped them get settled to await discharge in a day or two. Another small miracle has taken place on the Rotaplast Mission.

The hospital is inundated with these stories of caring. This afternoon, two young women arrived at Vicente Sotto with a 71-year-old woman and her two little ones, a girl of about 7, and a baby of two and a half. This beautiful, but frail grandmother is raising five of her daughter’s children alone, and in very poor circumstances. The young women are employees at the La Farge cement company in Danao, a couple of hours north of Cebu City. The company has been holding forums to determine any concerns that the people in the area might have regarding the cement company. During one of these forums, a manager noticed young Gabriel who has a cleft lip. He arranged to have the child brought to Cebu City by his employees, as he had heard there was a medical mission in town. Gabriel is what Rotaplast calls a “walk-in”, a case not seen before. Within an hour, Gabriel had been seen by a pediatrician, an anesthetist, and a plastic surgeon, all volunteers with Rotaplast, and the steps were put in motion to arrange to have him operated on tomorrow. His cleft lip will be repaired because Rotaplast will not refuse treatment to any child, and because, somewhere out there in Danao, there was a small act of caring.