Read about Mari Trubenbach's "Operation of Hope" in Ecuador.
14-year-old Mari Trubenbach traveled with her grandfather to witness his "Passion in Action": Performing corrective surgery for Ecuadorian children with cleft palates and other facial deformities as part of Operacion Esperanza, an all-volunteer medical team that has performed nearly 1200 free operations since 1987.
Name: Mari Trubenbach
City/State: Lake Forest
What kind of philanthropic or volunteer work did/do you do?
Mari: I participated in my grandfather's (Dr. Joseph) all-volunteer non-profit (501) medical foundation that has traveled to Ecuador for the past 16 years to perform cleft lip, cleft palate, microtia (deformed ear) and facial deformity surgeries for the children of Ecuador for free.
What is the name and location of the organization?
Mari: Operacion Esperanza, Longview, WA.
Tell us about the project, especially who benefits from this work.
Mari: The children and babies that benefit from this work are those born with cleft palates or cleft lips or other facial disfigurations. They come from the Amazon jungle, Columbia and Peru. These surgeries help kids grow so that they can go to school. They also repair burns, scars, tumors and other growths.
What inspired you to get involved?
Mari: At my junior high, we have to perform 40 hours of community service in two years to graduate. I wanted to find something that was truly meaningful.
How did you first get involved? Through school? Your parents? Give us some details.
Mari: My grandfather invited me to come as I just turned 14 this year. He wanted me to see his "Passion in Action."
What is/was the best thing about your experience?
Mari: I worked in the recovery room 12-14 hours a day helping the nurses with the babies and children right after their surgery. I monitored the machines and helped with keeping them comfortable. Just seeing the changes after the surgery was amazing!
What is/was the hardest part?
Mari: The hardest part was seeing such poverty and such harsh conditions and how we often take things for granted in America.
What was the biggest surprise?
Mari: How much I loved this work...working with the doctors and nurses and the Ecuadorian Peace Corp kids. The country is beautiful, and the people are warm and kind.
What new things have you learned as a result of your experience and how have you changed as a result?
Mari: To never take for granted life and the people that love you! In Ecuador, when you go to the hospital, your family stays by your side and brings you food and cares for you. They sleep on the floor if they have to be near their child.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of getting involved in philanthropy or volunteering?
Mari: Don't hesitate! It will be the most rewarding thing you ever do. You will receive so much more than you can ever give!
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