He recalls the story of a grandmother in Brazil who walked through the jungle for eight days with her twin grandchildren to bring them to the Operation Smile medical mission. Their father had rejected the twins, saying there was a curse on them, that a bad spirit had possessed the twins, causing their cleft lip and cleft palate.
“We were able to give the twins surgery on their cleft lip, and the next year they came all the way back for surgery on their cleft palate, ” Pyo said. “This time their father came with them. Once he saw this organization could help his children, he allowed them back into the home. He accepted them.”
Pyo looks at that picture daily in his office, the picture that reminds him of the moment that started his journey volunteering on surgical missions with Operation Smile.
Now, after 10 medical missions across the globe, Pyo says the same thing keeps him coming back to help more children. “With my small skills, surgery does so much more than just change that one child, it changes the family, the whole community. It brings a sense of understanding to a family that may have no idea why their child was born that way. When we show them it’s not a curse, it’s not something evil, you see how it changes everyone.”
“You’re doing just one little thing to help these kids, these families, ” Pyo said. “But they go home and they have so much more to overcome in many cases. But at least they don’t have to worry about their facial deformity being one of those.”
We sat down with Dr. Pyo for a question and answer-style interview. Read on for more about why Dr. Pyo got involved with Operation Smile and an impactful small-world moment.
What inspired you to volunteer for Operation Smile?
Not to sound like a commercial, but Operation Smile is the very best organization that I have ever worked with because of the focus on safety, outcomes and credentialing. We treat the patients with the highest standards, just as if we were in the best hospitals in the U.S. There is no other organization with Operation Smile’s standards. Our Global Standards of Care are the model, just like what we do at home. I wouldn’t do any surgery on a mission that I wouldn’t do at home.
The other reason I choose to volunteer with Operation Smile is the support I receive from my family. Both my sons are active in fundraising for Operation Smile, from birthday party fundraising drives, to violin recitals, art exhibitions and car washes. I wouldn’t be able to go on medical missions without the support of my family and their willingness to give up time with their dad so I can help children who need it most.
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