We made eye contact the moment we saw each other, on the third day of the mission in childcare. She was unique, active, and vivid. She transmitted faith and hope through her eyes. Through her dark brown round eyes and long eyelashes I could see a mix of emotions that I didn’t understand. Those emotions were deeper than the feelings a smile can show you and I was determined to figure them out. Her beautiful eyes appalled the issue that her mouth was completely destroyed. I was baffled; this kid really made an instant connection with me. Her name was Dina, a 6-year-old girl I met on the 2014 Operation Smile mission in Chinandega, Nicaragua.
I immediately made my way through the crowd and took her into my arms. She laughed. I marveled at how that gorgeous melodious laugh wasn’t be obscured by her physical deformity. I found it very unfair that she was born that way and I decided to commit myself entirely to help her. Dina had a cleft lip and a cleft palate.
They say a smile is contagious, but Dina Dinamita (that is how I used to call her) made me smile spontaneously, without having an actual smile herself. That is why I use to call her Dina Dinamita, which stands for dynamite. Dina was powerful and fearful just like a dynamite. She was full of surprises. I remember one day that I was painting her nails and she choose orange, my favorite. Then I realized that she had noticed that my feet were painted orange as well, that’s why she had gone for that color.
Dina and I were alike; she was clever, strong and sharp.
After Dina’s surgery, she was a different girl. She was very timid and insecure. She was not the happy and spontaneous girl I had met. Then I realized that I needed to help her and pay her back all the happiness that she had conveyed me.
She was leaving in the next two days and I needed to engross myself in that time to the fullest.
I told her stories, I tried to make her laugh and I gave her juice to drink (she couldn’t eat because of the surgery). I failed. I failed all the above. The last day when I visited her to say good-bye, she gave me the best gift I could have asked for.
I saw her beautifully captivating smile.
She gave me the honor to be the first one to see that smile.
Dina’s smile meant and means a lot to me. It represents a process, a process of physical and emotional transformation. A process in which I got attached to someone, something that had never happened to me.
Operation Smile has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my entire life. My intention was to help others and in doing so they helped me changed myself in ways I would have never expected. There aren’t any words to describe how drastically Dina changed my life and I know I will never find them. Seven months have past since the mission I still don’t forget Dina. I hope I can see her again one day.
I want to end with this beautiful quote.
“The sweetest pleasure arises from difficulties overcome.” ― Publius Syrus
Because of Dina’s first smile.
Because of her mothers overwhelming contempt.
Because of the 109 kids that got operated.
Because of life changes.
One smile at a time
The change starts with you.
Operation smile 2014.