AdventHealth Sharing Smiles provides healing and hope to needy children in developing countries. By collaborating with onsite medical professionals and Rotary Clubs we ensure these children receive the ongoing care needed to help them do what all children do best -- smile.
Every AdventHealth Sharing Smiles medical mission trip includes a qualified team of physicians, nurses, dentists, physical therapists and non-medical professionals who all volunteer their time. These volunteers have a far-reaching impact on the lives they touch. Their common goal is to care for children and provide excellent medical care.
A Gift for a Lifetime Dr. Thomas Looke's Story
Dr. Thomas Looke’s first Sharing Smiles medical mission trip was to Veracruz, Mexico in 2007. “The trip lasted a week and we operated on about 8 to 10 children a day,” Dr. Looke recalls. “I’ll never forget this one little five-year-old boy who was very nervous. I talked to him to calm his nerves and told him that the amber pendant that he was wearing was pretty cool. After the surgery, his mother thanked me for taking care of her little boy and gave me the amber pendant. To this day, I still wear the pendant on my AdventHealth I.D. badge.”
“Every time someone asks me about the pendant, I tell them about this little boy and the work Sharing Smiles does in Latin America and Mexico.”
Dr. Looke has lived in Orlando since 2001, when he joined JLR Anesthesia Group. He is a graduate of the University of Florida Medical School, the United States Naval Academy and he served in the U.S. Navy for seven years.
Dr. Looke learned about Sharing Smiles from fellow anesthesiologist Dr. Chris Dobson who explained the work of Sharing Smiles and medical professionals who volunteer their time and skill to help children with cleft palates in South America and Mexico.
Interpreting Sharing Smiles: Brenda's Story
It takes a team to accomplish what Sharing Smiles does for children in Latin America. One vital team member is the interpreter whose role is critical in relaying information, comfort and instructions to children and their families before surgery and follow-up care. Brenda Perez is a Certified Healthcare Interpreter with a Master’s Degree in Translation from the University of Puerto Rico.
She realized her dream when she volunteered to travel with Sharing Smiles to Merida, Mexico. “I fell in love with the work being done and I saw it as the perfect opportunity to help others and fulfill a long-time dream of mine,” Brenda shared.
Brenda’s days typically started at 7 am and ended at 6 pm She was present with parents during evaluations, consents and post-operative instruction for the 40 children that received surgery. “I never felt tired,” she said. “I was doing what I love most.”
Making a Difference: Tere's Story
“Sometimes the moms don’t recognize their babies after the cleft lip and palate repair surgery,” explains Tere Lumucso. “The difference is that dramatic and the moms are so grateful.” Seeing the amazing transformation on the faces of children is what Tere loves most about volunteering with Sharing Smiles. Tere is from a small village in Honduras and she began volunteering with Sharing Smiles in 2000.
In addition to her nurse anesthetist skills, her heritage enables her to bring a special perspective to Sharing Smiles. “I see both sides, as a mission volunteer and as someone from this culture,” Tere shares. “I try to talk to the families of the children so they’re not intimidated. You have to mold yourself to their culture and be conscious of their ways and beliefs.”
Tere’s first Sharing Smiles mission trip was in 2008 and she hasn’t looked back. “When I look at pictures of my own children and then realize that the children who we heal on these trips will no longer suffer being mistreated by society for looking different or not speaking properly, I know I’m making a difference and it’s worth it.”
Learn more about AdventHealth Sharing Smiles at www.adventhealthsharingsmiles.com.