The wards were busy with post-op children and teens, and those awaiting their surgeries today, which is operating day #2. One of the Rotaract volunteers and President of the club, Ariel (Yeng) Alvarez offered to help with translation, as I had wanted to speak with a young 14-year-old girl, Eljane Illut, who was awaiting surgery. Through Yeng, I learned that Eljane felt quite comfortable with the interview. She and her mother, Alma, and aunt Bien Venida had travelled from Bantayan Island which is about five hours away from Cebu by boat and road. Eljane is in second year in high school. She has a complicated cleft which is quite disfiguring and affects her speech. She told me she is always treated with respect by her friends and by the other students. Her teachers have instructed the kids that they must never discriminate against children who are different in any way. She does well in school, having no problem with her studies and exams. She likes to study, and she also likes to play badminton and to draw and color. In order to be fully understood, she “does actions” or signs while she speaks – she told me she likes talking a lot! When she finishes school she would like to be a nurse, because she wants to help her family. I spoke with her mother who had only just now found out about Eljane’s wish to be a nurse. She was quite emotional about this fact, as she can see ambition in her daughter, some of which has occurred since interacting with the doctors and nurses working with Rotaplast. I wondered why she had not been treated as a young child. Her mother explained that the doctor who originally saw her was hesitant to do anything, as there were no facilities or the equipment necessary for follow-up treatment. Eljane’s cousin also had a cleft lip and palate, and had been operated on by a previous Rotaplast team; now she has “a successful marriage with two kids.” Eljane’s father is a fisherman, but doesn’t have much work, so the family is very poor. She was encouraged to come to Cebu to have the operation by her pastor. Eljane says that her biggest wish is “to have good features.”
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