Free To Smile Scholarship Winner Recap

09/16/2016
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“I can honestly tell you that I am so grateful for the opportunity both HealthLinx and Free To Smile Foundation gave me to be part of the team, as it has opened my eyes to the way I live… I have encountered few times in my life where I have been able to say, ‘This is it! This was the missing piece to the puzzle,’ and this trip helped me realize that serving others in a third world country was something I should have been doing all along.” – Sandra Chaveleh

This past June, we announced the winner of our 2016 Free To Smile Scholarship, Sandra Chaveleh. We are pleased to share Sandra recently returned from her mission trip to Patzun, Guatemala that took place from August 27-September 4.

Being one of 24 volunteers, Sandra and the team on this mission trip provided 39 children with life changing dental surgeries, including cleft lip and palate deformity procedures.

Sandra was kind enough to share her thoughts about the mission trip experience and being a part of the Free To Smile team:

“I was reflecting and attempting to find the right words to write on this thank you note and then realized that there are likely no right words that can possibly sum up the feelings and experiences that I encountered while in Patzun.

I saw parents’ heartache when their child’s surgery was postponed, as well as hope, anguish, pain and rejoicing every day before, during and after each surgery. I held hands, hugged and prayed with so many, and I was humbled by the amount of gratitude the parents expressed because I realized what I had done was so little for them.  

  Free To Smile Scholarship Winner - Sandra3 Free To Smile Scholarship Winner - Sandra2 Free To Smile Scholarship Winner - Sandra

I went on this mission trip without previous experience and without knowing anyone.  Except for what little I found online, what I had heard on the conference call and the instructions that were emailed to me, I didn’t have a perspective or expectation of what it would be like. Prior to boarding the plane, I had a wide array of emotions going through me, such as fear, anticipation, excitement and gratitude, just to name a few. I wondered whether I was fully prepared for (what) I would encounter, and if (I) would be able to be an asset, really.  As the week progressed and I settled in my role, I can honestly tell you that I am so grateful for the opportunity both HealthLinx and Free To Smile Foundation gave me to be part of the team, as it has opened my eyes to the way I live.  I met professionals who live their life intentionally and now I intend to be responsible for the way I live going forward doing the same.

I have encountered few times in my life where I have been able to say, “This is it! This was the missing piece to the puzzle,” and this trip helped me realize that serving others in a third world country was something I should have been doing all along.

Once again, thank you for helping me grow as a person and professional. See you next September!”

Free To Smile Scholarship applications are accepted year-round. If you are a registered nurse who is interested in joining a mission trip, click here to apply.

And if you would like to donate to Free To Smile, please do so here.