I am sitting on the balcony in the predawn coolness hours before our 7:30 a.m. departure. Concrete block housing beyond the parking lot is silhouetted in front of pink-tinged haze on the horizon. The serenity of myriad bird chirps, trills and squawks welcoming the day from mango tree perches is punctuated by the diesel idling of our bus one floor below. A good time for reflection.

Today we’ll have our closing clinic. There will be the obligatory post-op check ups but also a chance for one last personal connection with some of our new friends. As a photographer I seek out the emotions concurrent with the "medicalness" of the mission. A touch, a glance, a gentle kiss.

I feel privileged to have recorded so many of those moments during our time in Venezuela. I also recognize the obligation to honor the dignity of those whose stories I have shared in words and photos.

Yesterday, Carmen returned to the hospital for some additional treatment and one of the volunteers was showing her the earlier blog post with the photos and story of her palate surgery. She was proud to have given me permission to share those personal images with you.

We exchanged e-mail addresses so I could send her a Spanish language speech therapy guide. With her newly closed palate and some practice her speech should improve dramatically. We also exchanged hugs. So goes another successful Rotaplast mission. Until next time…  

Jerry Meshulam, Photojournalist