Operación Sonrisa Nicaragua (Operation Smile Nicaragua)
February – June 2013: Raised funds for Operation Smile via the Miss Universe Canada Organization, for the development of a new head facility for Operation Smile in Nicaragua. Personally, I presented a “Give a Smile, Get a Smile” at primary schools to educate and demystify cleft lips and palates while raising funds. The program also featured children’s magician, Scott Dietrich. In total, that program raised $6000 for Operation Smile.
During our goodwill tour in Nicaragua, we met many of the children that either had the cleft palate and/or lip repair by Operation Smile. We had a group talk with some teenage girls that were to undergo the surgery or had undergone their procedure—a talk about self confidence, and the challenges we face as women, and how we can also overcome them.
We also were involved in the medical mission that happened that month in Managua. From helping registering children on the first day (and learning of the perseverance shown by many families, enduring days of travel by boat, bus, and foot); participating in the pre-operative assessment of each individual child with the plastic surgeons; to going into the operating room to observe some of the procedures, and heading back to the post-operative room to meet with the nurses and pediatricians who would ensure the child remained stable until the anesthetic wore off.
The most memorable part of this experience was returning one of the operated children back to her mother in the post-operative room. This was the first time the mother saw her baby since heading into surgery. The tears of happiness shared in that moment, by all, was absolutely beautiful. Lives were truly changed!
Aldeas Infantiles SOS (SOS Children’s Villages) Nicaragua
June 2013: Raised funds in Canada, for SOS Children’s Villages via the Miss Universe Canada Organization, to fund a computer centre for one of the SOS Children’s Villages in Nicaragua.
During the goodwill tour, we visited SOS Children’s Villages in Managua and León. The children greeted us with excitement, to meet the Canadian beauty queens, and to thank us for our support. They shared words of gratitude for previous donations by the Miss Universe Canada Organization, presented traditional songs and dances, and then pulled us in to dance with them.
When we had a chance to speak to some of the SOS mothers and children, it was great to learn that many children “graduate” from the village and find employment or pursue post-secondary education. And the cycle completes itself when many times, children that have been able to establish a successful career, then return to help their village.
This organization truly is life-transforming, and provides children with the support to have a better life.
Healthy Kids, Happy Kids – INDIA
Nov 2011-Jan 2012: A two-month charity tour for Healthy Kids, Happy Kids, throughout India, starting in the state of Punjab, and travelling south.
The first two weeks of the tour was to promote the organization, along with 5 other pageant queens from other countries. By garnering attention, money was raised by donation/sponsorship for the various programs provided by Healthy Kids, Happy Kids.
The rest of the tour entailed going to the slums and orphanages to interact with the children and families, and to provide them with food and clothing. These visits also allowed us to note which children and family had particular needs that we could later provide (ie. medical assistance).
One significant part of the tour was a visit to the village of Samasthan Narayanpur. We were greeted by thousands of people that knew of our arrival, as this visit meant the gift of mobility. This village, affected by fluoride contamination/over-exposure from the water supply, has an outstanding number of children and adults with skeletal fluorosis. Fluorosis occurs from high concentrations of fluoride in the body. The fluoride binds to calcium in the bones, thus weakening the bones. This leads to damage and pain to the bones and joints. We saw many people with poorly developed limbs, resulting in an inability to walk. Mobility was either by a family member carrying the person, or by dragging oneself across the ground.
Our visit provided a solution for mobility: 150 wheelchairs were distributed to those with skeletal fluorosis. Of course, this is a Band-Aid solution. The ultimate efforts are in establishing an environment with safe fluoride levels, which are being discussed with biochemists and engineers.
Another special centre, set up by the Healthy Kids, Happy Kids Foundation, was “Success Vocational College,” which provides education and training to youth in various disciplines. Many would not have been able to afford the schooling (for ie. nursing and paramedicine), but this college enrolls those that are eager to learn. I met such driven students, with a heart of gold, and with stories of difficulty and endurance. It was an honour to speak to them and to share in their stories. I was able to participate in some of the college’s clinics that were opened up to the poor, to provide basic medical treatment and exams to those that sought it.
Leaving was so sad. I was touched by the beauty of the country and the people, but am so grateful for organizations like Healthy Kids, Happy Kids, that strive to better lives day-by-day, one person at a time.
Variety—The Children’s Charity
2010-2011: As part of the Miss World Canada platform, raised funds and awareness for Variety—The Children’s Charity BC.
Variety—The Children’s Charity is an organization that raises funds and distributes grants for children with special needs. These grants include medical equipment/devices (wheelchairs, prosthetic limbs, hearing devices, etc.), medications, and travel for healthcare.