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Sunday, April 18, 2010

From Mission Training to Mission Memories-- tips, tricks, hints and advice on everything mission! :)

Hi, My name is Lisa Adachi. I am 17 years old, a Junior at Bountiful High School in Bountiful, Utah and I am passionate about Operation Smile. I recently returned from my Medical Mission as a student educator to Amman, Jordan. It changed my life and I am forever in debt to the person it has molded me into today. I hope that these tips, tricks, hints and advice serve you well and that I will be able to assist you a little bit from my experience. By no means am I saying I’m an expert, but these are the things that I experienced and that I would like to share with you. Good luck!

     Yay! You’ve been accepted into MTW! Congratulations. I’m sure  you’ve done a lot to get to this point. Mission Training will be an AMAZINGGG experience for you- so live it up, and have fun!! I don’t have much to say about this part, except for be flexible, outgoing, willing to work hard, meet new people, party hard, and get prepared. When filling out your mission availability forms, they REALLY look at those and that has a LOT to do with where you are going and when- so really be precise about being able to go in a certain time slot because they are serious about that.

       The last day of MTW will go by really, really slow. I think the only comment that I have to make about the final party and mission assignments is that EVERY MISSION is assigned to a the EXACT PLACE at the EXACT time with the EXACT other person that YOU are supposed to be with. So don’t be picky or even (gasp!) disappointed when you find out where you’re going. It’s going to be the perfect mission for you, whenever the time is- so don’t complain and know that those kids, wherever you may be-- they’re yours and it was supposed to be that way. That mission is FOR you. So get excited!

 Let me tell you one thing about mystery missions.. Yes, I admit I would have been really sad and disappointed while everyone is chattering and going crazy, calling friends, family and updating Facebook about their missions if you have the opportunity to be assigned to one. However-- you MUST remember that this does NOT reflect your involvement, your work, or your participation in MTW. The Mystery Missions are simply a category for people to wait in for a little while because of either YOUR availability, or MISSION availability.

My mission partner Taylor, was assigned a "MYSTERY MISSION" at mission training. I know it was hard for her and the several others who got them, but at this point in time, PLEASE do all you can to stay positive, happy, and optimistic. At my Mission Training, a new mission came in THAT night and was announced the next morning. My original MP Sasha had a conflict and couldn't go so Taylor was assigned a mission less than a WEEK after the training. I'm pretty sure that every person from our MTW got a mission within 2 weeks of the training.

Keep in mind that priority for missions goes to Seniors first, then Juniors, then Sophomores (because seniors are required to complete their missions prior to graduation). Your availability also plays a huge part in the mission assignments. If you mark only 1 or 2 blocks of time you can go on your mission, you are limiting yourself a great deal. Prioritize PRIOR to the training for any conflicts you may have so you can give a fair chance to everyone (state tournaments for athletics, prom, family events, end of term/semester/quarter, etc)

Final word on Mystery Missions.. You WILL get a mission, NO  MATTER WHAT. And when you do, it will be at the perfect time, at the perfect location and with the perfect person for you. Please know it is not about YOU-- but rather dates and availability that will play a factor in this. So... STAY HAPPY! YOU GET A MISSION!!! (soon) :)

       Start preparing right away after you get done at MTW. Keep in touch with your MTW Family. They seriously are going to be your biggest fans and support system. They love you and you really do become just a big family and you’re way excited for each other.

Pre Mission
1) Start EARLY
     I got my mission assignment on January 17, at  WMTW ‘10. My mission date was Feb 24. Yeah. I had about 4 and a half weeks to prepare and even though that was a time crunch and I wrote my donation letters on my plane ride home, I still was left pulling 2 all-nighters before I left. Whether it’s for collecting donations, making your presentations, talking to your partner, start early. You WILL run out of time if you don‘t. I wish that I had taken advantage of each MINUTE that I had inbetween MTW and my mission.  I’m going to talk about a few aspects of Pre-Mish now..

2) Donations
     As I said, I wrote letters on the plane ride home from Virginia. (If you want to see a copy, send a comment my way and I’ll send it to you: ) I sent them out and attached a list of the items I was asking for. I had my contact information on the bottom of the list and the dates of my mission in bold with the items I needed the most asterisked.

     The letters proved to be unsuccessful, but I started a Mission Blog and advertised that every chance I got through Facebook, my friends, school, etc. and I got a lot of response that way. I also went around my community and asked for donations. I know at first it is very awkward and a lot of people don’t even know about OS, so I would smile real big (not too creepily though) , tell them my name, what school I went to, and ask them if they knew what Operation Smile was. If not, I’d whip out an adorable picture and give a really short blurb about it, tell them what I was doing, and ask for their support and help. It usually worked. The larger companies mostly denied me because they handle all donations through ‘Corporate’ so go to the smaller, local places. A local beauty store in my city gave me $1,500 worth of hair stuff, nail polish, jewelry and just awesome stuff. Burger king also gave me about 100 crowns that the kids LOVED. You can ask restaurants for crayons, or other businesses for cash or any donation they can give.

     I knew someone who had gone on the same mission site as me, so I called her up and she was able to give me some great tips about the kinds of things that were the most popular for the area I was in. I would recommend doing that. Someone knows SOMEONE who went to your spot I’m sure. So do your research.  Just remember- no matter how many times you get rejected, someone will ALWAYS say yes. Stay optimistic and don’t be bitter at people who can’t give you anything. That’s not what Op Smile is about.  Also- DON’T GIVE UP! And keep going. Remember it’s all for the kids!

3) School
     Missing 2 weeks of school killed my gpa. Get as much of it done BEFORE you leave as you can because believe you me-- Homework on your mission…  I PROMISE you that you  won’t do it and that room you used in your luggage to haul a book or a calculator could have been used for the kids. I was up for hours doing a research paper that was due while I was gone and it delayed my packing and other important things so much. And when you’re so close to your mission, you don’t even want to or CAN’T really think about anything else so get it done early. I know most of my teachers didn’t even know what we were doing till a few days before I left or told me just to worry when I got back- but it was so difficult so get it as early as you can  and git ‘er done! Also, make sure you or your mommy gets your absences excused for you!

4) Your Club
         It’s important to get your club involved. Most of them probably haven’t been on missions and student mission stories are what really motivate and inspire people. So host a toy drive if you have time, make Get Well Soon cards, or just do something to involve them.
5) Presentations
     THIS IS WHY  YOU’RE THERE! Decide early who of your partnership will make what posters (I made ORT and Dental because I work in a dental office and it was more accessible for me) and MAKE Them. You seriously won’t have time to make them the week before your mission because they took me several hours each to plan out, research, translate, rough draft it out, draw, color, and laminate. They were a huge investment of time and effort.
     Make your posters with your audience in mind. They won’t and can’t read tiny text if it’s all splattered on there.  Have a lesson plan and a script (you should basically have these done at MTW) with what you know you’re going to say so that you can only put the essentials on your poster. Make fonts big and easy to read or understand. I had to do my posters in Arabic and Google Translate failed me.  Our translations on our posters were an epic fail and were the point to many a joke while in Jordan from the Jordanian teamJ Get someone to help you because most words don’t translate directly in any language, so pictures and stuff like that is best.
     I made 2 flip posters, so that was nice. I got a regular piece of poster board, and folded it in half. The first cover had stuff, the back had overview stuff, and the inside opened to be a huge mouth to demonstrate on. The ORT one had explanations on the front, overview on the back, and big cups with recipes on the inside. You have time so REHEARSE your presentation over Skype or the phone with your partner. I wish I had. I brought mine in my suitcase but Taylor had hers in a poster tube. This worked great so we didn’t have 2 tubes and we put all of them in one place and brought that with us everywhere.
     Also, find a lot of opportunities to do presentations and take them. You don’t need a huge group of kids, you don’t necessarily need a translator or your partner. You can do one on one’s or anything. Just try and do as many as you can when appropriate)
Keep in mind to be flexible with your presentations. Allow room for mistakes and improvisation. Keep it Simple. Keep it fun.

          Eesh. This is a crazy one. Packing hundreds of pounds of donations and stuff is a logistical nightmare. For International Travel, you will most likely be able to have 2 check-ins.. Both 50 lb. These are to be designated solely for donations and maybe bigger items/liquids. I got 2 bags. One of them was massive. I bet it could fit a small country in there. The other was slightly smaller and kindof beat up. Be smart with your packing. Space bags.. They are your friends. Don’t take stuff that you don’t necessarily need. Stuffed animals are great but I only took a small space bags worth out of the TON I got donated. I took the lightest ones (some of them were beanie babies or had some sort of a weight in them) because they took the least amount of space. I put fragile items (nail polish) in with the stuffed animals and baby blankets I got and sucked the air right out of them which proved to be a golden idea.
          Don’t feel like you have to take everything. I got some stuff that was a little culturally insensitive so I passed on it. I also got some Easter Egg shaped bouncy balls (cruelest joke for a child ever!) and candy and stuff like that that wouldn’t have helped me a lot. I still have a big box left of donations I’m saving to give to the next person I know leaving on a mission in my area. Take the things that you’ll need or you think you’ll use the most.
I started packing the night before and uhh.. Yeah. I would NOT recommend it. Plan it out before hand as much as you can and then just start and throw in the things you need to use still later. Put luggage tags or ribbons on all your luggage. Make sure to print off the Operation Smile tags and duct tape them to your luggage.
          For me personally, I packed 2 bags to carry on (I put my posters in my huge checked bag), one duffle and one backpack. I also had a blanket (Taylor had a snuggie) and that was a LIFESAVER. I actually under packed for myself. I only brought scrub bottoms and last minute THANKFULLY found these pretty ugly but workable Capri type cargoish pants which I ended up wearing all the time. I forgot that we’re not ALWAYS at the hospital.. So don’t JUST bring scrubs. I guess I assumed I wouldn’t need normal clothes haha I thought I was over packing when I brought 2 regular t-shirts. I brought quite a few Op Smile shirts and scrub bottoms to wear to the hospital (you’ll have to check with your Program Coordinator if scrub bottoms are appropriate). I failed to realize we would be going out to nice places at night to eat dinner, etc. So bring a few outfits maybe but don’t bring a new whole shabangin’ outfit for each day. I got a few shirts while I was there from the team and if you wear anything too low cut, they’ll give you shirts too (Amanda;) hehe..
This is the best picture I can find of my little pink backpack I am about to talk about... LPB=LIFESAVER

       I put all my clothes in one space bag so it was nice and small. Bring extra little plastic bags or something to put your dirty clothes in because believe me- they will get dirty. Some other items I felt were important to bring as far as personal items was… a clipboard. I carry a clipboard with me at school and it is the most helpful thing because I put all the current important stuff I need on it. I brought it with me on the mish and it was awesome because kids would give me coloring pages I would clip on there, I would get stuff from parents, I was writing down names and ages of my favorites, and it was good to have just there. Another HUGE item that I would recommend to all is a little backpack. Not a huge school one, but one that has those drawstrings and maybe a front little zipper. Mine had a front zipper and 2 pockets on the sides which were PERFECT to fill with pipe cleaners and bubbles (the perfect recipe for a crying child to stop and smile). The ’lil bag was lightweight and not bulgy. It fit all my stuff perfectly and since the drawstrings hold the top together, it’s really hard to steal stuff out of it. It was perfect and I was SO glad I brought it. (I also brought some small foldable bags like laundry bags sorta that were small but when opened, fit a heck of a lot of stuff. So bring them so you can bring the donations to the hospitals, etc.

          THE item that saved our lives while on the mission were these little GermX Individual wipes. They were like $1.77 at walmart for a big pack of a dozen and they were small and fit several in my backpack. They were perfect to wash grosssssssssss hands after playing with kids and bubbles, at lunch or just when your hands felt gross. Hand Sanitizer is great and a mini size is also recommended, but it hardly cuts through all that dirt so I would BEG you- just get them.
          As far as clothes and other things like that,   It all depends on your site, so it is important to talk to someone who has already been there.
7) Do your Research!
          Find out the language, the food, the customs, the little things. Do some basic research about where you are going so you can be prepared. Learn a little bit of the  language and start using it!  My sponsor read about the call to Prayer that sounds through the city no matter where you are at 4am every day and several people on the team woke up to it each time. So she brought earplugs. Smart move on her part if she was a light sleeper.
          As I mentioned before, I got a TON of nail polish donated to me. I got like 160 I think. I asked my Program Coordinator if that would be ok to bring, and she thought it was-- I ended up leaving the entire bagful that I brought there and not using any of it. Turns out that in Jordan, you can’t pray as they do multiple times a day if you have paint on your nails. The kids also can’t have their nails painted to go into surgery either, So that was kindof an epic fail on my part. I wish I had asked someone in-country who could have helped me.
          Which leads me to my last point-  when you get your first Team Packet, it’s so fun to just read through and see all the people and things you’ll be doing and it’s awesome. I sent a short email out to my team before I left- just hit “reply to all” and gave a short blurb about who I was, what I was doing on the team, and I was happy and excited to meet and work with them. I also attached a picture of Taylor and I that I had from MTW. That was great for me because when I got to the airport and to Jordan, a lot of the team knew me as the blog girl and it was an icebreaker. Like I’ll tell you later, don’t wait to get comfortable.

8) Misc. Pre Mission tips/thoughts/advice

     You don’t have to deal with drama or whatever that jank is on your mission, so just make sure you’re cool with your MP before you spend 2 weeks with them attached at your side in a foreign countryJ Just get to know them and don’t wait to get comfortable. Take initiative and talk about stuff. Text them. I know you do it, so just send em a friendly text some days. Get excited WITH them. Ask them what treats they want to bring and what you should bring and what things you can share while there.  Be the partner that you would want to be with.

               Make Contact Cards
     I met so many people on my mission that I became such good friends with. Make contact cards (SOOO easy to do on word or FREE! On with your Name, Email, Address and Facebook/blog info. I know you can make free business cards with your uploadable photo on them so that would be freakin sweet. We were all busily writing down names saying “find me on Facebook!” but seriously, you’ll forget names and stuff.. I just wish I would have done it, so take my advice if you like:)

               Bring Photos
     I really wish I had. The child life specialist had just a few photos she brought and carried with her everywhere of her family. They were adorable. When you’re with your team and the people at the hospital, they want to know. I could only TELL the parents I met that I had 2 little nieces the same ages as their kids and I SO wish I could have shown them. Make a little flip book of pictures of you, your friends, what you like to do,  your family and probably laminate it (by no means am I saying crack open the frame of the only antique baby picture you have of yourself down from the wall.. Your mom would kill me). So make copies, print them at Costco (they’re only 13 cents a print!;) and laminate em real quick.

               Shots, Passport, Money, etc.
     Get your shots!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I just BARELY made it for mine-- they have to be in your system like 2-4 weeks before you go, so make sure you do or else it would be completely a huge waste of time and money. When I went to mine, they made me consult with a travel nurse who told me all about Jordan and how there were rabid wild dogs and crazy bugs everywhere… Yeah.. She’s never been to Jordan.. Haha but it was nice to take precautions I guess. Some of her advice was helpful and so if that’s available, do it.
     Make copies of your passports to put in every bag. This is necessity…. Taylor and I lost our passports for a few hours and it was big scare. I was starting to be really thankful for the last minute run I took to Kinko’s to make copies on the way to the airport. See, I didn’t do it before and I thought it was a minor detail so I didn’t do it. Use your time wisely.
     Money- I brought a little over $300 USD and exchanged as I needed it. I would not recommend exchanging all of your cash at once because exchange rates are crazy and you’ll most likely lost money in the long run. With that- be sure to wear a money belt and WEAR it. Or keep it in the safe in the hotel. WOW we really learned our lesson on that one. JUST DO IT. Ok? After our scare on the first day, I left all my money at the hotel in the safe and just took maybe 20 JD or so with me. Wade told us at MTW don’t get too comfortable-- we got too comfortable and we almost paid everything we had for it-- literally.
               MEMORYYYY and picture taking
     I shot almost 6 gigs of memory, so bring itJ Look early for deals on memory cards. The last thing you want to do is run out! On the same note, get plug converters and make sure to bring extra batteries if you bring rechargeable ones. Mine didn’t get a chance to charge one night and low battery was showing I was about to die until I remembered I packed 2 spare ones in my handy dandy backpack!
     Be respectful and use common sense when taking pictures. Always ask before taking anyone's picture.

               The Internet works
     I started a mission blog that was really cool for me. I loved updating it with the things I was doing. I would post pictures of donations I got, and just talk about my feelings. It was a great way to show people what I was doing and raise awareness about Operation Smile. I got over 4,000 hits on it (It is way easy to install a stat counter.. Email me for more details). I got hits from Japan, Jordan, Italy, France, The Philippines, everywhere.. It was hit. I also used it while I was there to document my mission. I’m not saying you should start one.. It’s super easy, free and fun, but if you’re not too into the blogging world, use your Facebook, Twitter or other means and just get word out there. Awareness!!  ***SEE FACEBOOK NOTE***

               Get Excited!!
     Even if your mission is 4 weeks or 4 months away, time moves FAST and just get EXCITED!! Don’t forget about all the work you put into getting where you are. Just because you got your mission assignment doesn’t mean you can do nothing now. Get excited, keep your involvement and enthusiasm high, and just make sure that you don’t lose the ‘high’.
BE EXCITED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This section is going to be in SEVERAL parts because there are so many parts to the mission.

     If you’ve never traveled internationally… I don’t really know. I’ve traveled my whole life so I’m so used to it. Taylor never had though and I think it just wa stressful for her just doing the whole thing by herself. So get prepared. Communicate well with your partner and sponsor. Make sure that you have everything you need- id, passport, tags, no liquids etc. If you need, bring some meds to help you with air sickness or just bring gum and stuff. Like I said before, the blanket my mom gave me was a brilliant idea. I was not happy to lug it with me at first, but the blankets on the flight are like.. Idk. I’ll tell you they ain’t yo momma’s nice fleece blanket! So I would take thatJ Bring noise-cancelling headphones if you have room or want to, but just prepare for a long ride, wherever you may goJ
     We went through security so many times before we got on our flight I lost track. Just be prepared to move FAST and take off your shoes. So maybe wear some that you can put on and off pretty easily. No one likes anyone holdin up a line.  Don’t mess around. (scared yet? : )

     Soak it in! You’re HERE!!!   
Get proper rest and hydrate my dear! Get a good night’s rest, for the next 2 weeks of your life you’ll be giving so much of yourself you’ll need every wink.

     The team will be your family for the next few weeks. There are going to be those who you connect with more and that’s great! Take advantage of the time  you have together and go to dinner and have fun! Also, the students serve as such a contrast I think from everyone. Be the energy and fun. One day, Taylor and I went to Breakfast and of course it’s 5something am so everyone is way tired. I got a TON of these bead necklaces and bandanas donated so we said good morning and gave every person on the team a bandana and a necklace and told them to give it to a child during the week. The kids and parents LOVED it. I also believe it was a great unifying thing for the team.
     One night we were all at dinner and something happened at the hospital- one of the patients started bleeding or something. The patient was alright, but all the doctors (half our table) were on call and they had to leave. It was a long night for all involved and so the student team was asked to just do something to raise moral. Things like that- just have fun! The child life specialist on our team just asked the front desk for all the people staying in the hotel with OpSmile and they gave her a list and you can do so many things- we went around one night and just asked everyone if they’d like to come to dinner with us. It ended up to be one of the best dinners of the entire mission. You can make notes for their doors.. Ya know? Just be creative

     Woo! Gosh even as I write this, I’m getting excited for you as I recall my own experience at the hospital. Congrats! Hehe I’m going to write about the hospital in 2 aspects- screening and surgery.
         Were my FAVORITEEEEE. They were CRAZY and seriously you will see so many kids!! I remember the first morning Taylor and I were just rushed and ushered down this crazy hallway and we turn the corner and seriously, a hundred faces just turned to look at us. We paused and we just JUMPED in. It was the best moment of my life I swear. I got on the floor, opened crayons and books and toys and crowns and brought the energy! Yeah! The kids SWARMED us. It was sooo fun. Just smile and give and laugh and give and play and give and smile more and give give give! 
         The screening days are when you will see the most people. You should use I would say at least HALF or so of your donations during these days. There is NO way.. And I repeat.. NO WAY that you will run out of stuff to give. So don’t be modest with what you give out. I wish that I had given more. Make a goal to give away everything you take with you to the hospital that day. On my mission, each child wanting a surgery came with several adults and siblings so there was just a massive amount of people. Give stuff to everyone. Don’t plan on seeing anything again if you bring it out though. Keep your energy high and bring some GO foods with you to eat in the break room. Nuts were great for me. Also drink a boatload of water (perfect your tri-pod pre mish;).
          If there are some kids you love during surgery, write their names down. I carried a little journal with me at all times and just asked their parents or them if they were old enough to write down their names. I would write down a little blurb of their story, where they were from, what the problem was, and what they were wearing and take a picture of them too. That way I would be able to keep track.  They encourage you to follow a family through screening, surgery and post op- so be sure to do soJ I also wrote down words that I learned throughout the day and kept a tally of how many presentations we did.
Always have a smile on your face and if you get tired- well.. Remember who you are and what you stand for and why you’re there. Don’t forget you are an elect and you’re representing us all!
          The reason why I say use half your stuff during screening is because during surgery week, the schedule is already set and therefore only a few kids come in. We did about 25 patients a day and they were kindof spread out so we didn’t see very many. They were more chill and we got to do more interactive things with them like puzzles or make necklaces. Bring the fast and exciting quick stuff for screening and save some of the things that are more chill for surgery. They might be hooked up to an IV or most likely wearing their hospital gowns so they won’t want to be doing anything too intensive. This is where my 1st grade recess skills came into play. Learn little hand games and claps and stuff to play with smaller groups. I taught a game that everyone sits in a circle and puts their hands on the ground but so that every other hand is different. One person starts and claps the ground once or twice. Once means it goes in the same direction, twice is the other way. If you accidentally go when it’s not your turn, that hand is out. No need for translation or anything. Really fun. It was a hit!

     These three things are amazing. I would say to ALWAYS have them with you. I would ALWAYS have stickers in my pocket and I’m prettyyy sure no child in Jordan at the time was sticker less. Go up to kids and get down to their level, show them the stickers and just say or ask them if they’d like  a sticker. I would point to my forehead or my cheek or my hand and they would look at me weird, but then I would take one and stick it on me somewhere and they would pick it out and I would ask where they wanted it. Even if it’s just a sticker, just make sure everyone has something. When walking down the hall, there were kids who didn’t have anything and I’d just stop and give them something. They love it.
     Crying babies. They will be everywhere. Just stop and whip out them bubbles and go at it! They get distracted and they’ll stop. make crazy noises and faces like you’ve never seen bubbles in your life and they will be equally amazed.
     Pipecleaners were great for older kids. I would take out the bunch and ask them to pick two colors. I would then proceed to make a cute flower (super duper easy and crafty.. I will make a video or put a picture or something) for them. They just light up when they see someone making something so cool in front of their eyes for them! (Remember the balloon guy at carnivals and stuff? Ya he was creepy but you’re just cool! The pipe cleaners also worked well when I was upstairs with a smaller group of kids and some older siblings/parents when it was more mellow and it was dying out. I just took the whole bag out and showed them some stuff you could make.. Stars, flowers, butterflies, wrap it around your finger and make a curly fry type thing.. J It entertained them all for an hour. They were pretty creative too! The Student volunteers really loved them too. I made friendship bracelets for them. (Take 3, braid, leave about 4 inches at the end unbraided, then make a loop at the opposite end that is already braided. Measure around your wrist, put the unbraided ends into the loop and bend back on your wrist and coil the unbraided slack individually for a cool and stylin bracelet!)
     These three things are undoubtedly a recipe for success! Yes, you might stink of scented bubbles and be crazy sticky from that and all the sticker residue on your face and you’ll be the crazy pipe cleaner magician (or at least I was) but you’ll never see the patients again or at least for a long time till if you return to your site so you’ll be the crazy one for 2 weeks and then you’re gone so its ok! : )

     Besides being at the hospital, there are lots of cool things for your mission. You’ll probably visit schools and stuff like that too! We went to a school, an     orphanage and a refugee camp.  Try new foods and ask the local volunteers what and where to eat. Take advantage of your time there. Don’t waste it by eating peanut butter and tuna the whole time. Eat a lot. I’ll never regret eating the most incredible food I’ve ever had in my life till I was so full and it seemed rude to be eating more (though in Jordan it is impossible to be full according to the wonderful hosts of our meals;). Seriously. Just eat and eat and try and experience it! 

     Talk to your team and sit with someone new on the bus. Don’t be antisocial and just talk to people! Look out the window. Write write write write in your journal. I was so tired sometimes it seemed unreal to be awake but I am so glad that I went and blogged and wrote about it. It’s just not the same when you come home.

The best student volunteers EVER from the Baptist School. Miss you guys so much.

         Be strong and just go for it. Whatever it is, go for it. Ask. The worst they can say is NO. (Remember Robert Pruitt always says "It's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission).  Be  respectful, but act on promptings and just take the initiative. Whether that’s to invite kids to play with you or inviting some of the team to dinner. Take the initiative to say “hey, let’s do a presentation!” take the chances or else you’re letting them pass by. Go up and talk to people. Get to know them. This goes with my second part- Don’t wait to get comfortable with your new friends. The student volunteers that were on my mission were my age! I just talked to them as if we’d known each other for years and we did become such amazing friends. On a ten day mission,  you really don’t have time to say oh I’ll talk to them tomorrow.. Sometimes, they aren’t there tomorrow.. Or ever..  That’s how it was with some of the patients too. It was the hardest part. Just thinking to myself leaving every day that I wouldn’t see them again after we played so much and laughed together so much together. Like I’ve said, don’t have regrets.  Don’t’ wait.

     No matter how much you prepare, you will always have to be ready to just go with the flow. Sometimes, there are things that come up and so just be smart and respectful. Be ok to play it by ear and improvise when needed. Be smart about stuff and just use your common sense for when things are appropriate.

     I wrote thank you cards for my mission partner, sponsor, and just several other people who especially touched me during the mission. They suggested Post Cards at MTW, and that works great. I got a few, but most of them I wrote on just simple colored paper and decorated with markers and stickers (you’ll be so used to it;). I wish I had brought some wallet sized pictures of myself (sounds so conceited lol) so they could remember my face. As much as I like to believe everyone I met will remember me, they won’t. So a nice reminder like that would have been cool just to put in there.

In Conclusion
     I guess overall, you need to have a good attitude and have no regrets. Don’t complain. Oh my goodness please don’t complain. If you feel a complaint about to come out of your mouth, refrain. Please. Don’t bring negativity into your experience. I made a goal with myself not to be negative and it was so wonderful. Even when you’re tired. Suck it up. Even when you’re hungry. Deal with it. Even when… just DEAL WITH IT! It’s gonna be fine. You must always remember WHY you are there and what you stand for. You only get one chance. So don’t freak out at little things or judge and complain or say negative things. It’ll bring those around you down. It’s about the kids. So forget about yourself and be productive. We had one day-- our first day-- at the hospital during screening when there were hundreds of people and  we lost our bags for a few hours with all our personal belongings-- passports and all our cash-- they were lost and we didn’t know what to do.  I just had to keep telling myself it was all going to work out and not to freak out and that it was going to be fine. There wasn’t anything I could do so I just kept playing with the kids and kept going. Soon enough, they showed up and it was fine! There are great rewards to being optimistic!
     Be respectful of people’s privacy and their culture. Just use common sense. Be happy and optimistic. Be positive and thankful. Be prepared and DEFINITELY be flexible. Be personable and enthusiastic. Be loud during  your presentations and TALK to your audience. Don’t just recite monotone-ish. Be engaging and proactive. Be thankful. Be Someone.

     The worst part of my mission (and many more as I’ve heard) is coming back. Bountiful, Utah wasn’t home to me anymore. Jordan was my home and I’d left my heart there. Oh how I still miss it.  It was a quiet flight home for me. Just reminiscing and feeling homesick.
     The first things that I did was obviously sleep. I slept for 14 hours. It was divine. After that, just prepare to feel really weird. Seriously- I didn’t really want to see anyone, EVERYONE and their dog is gonna ask “How was it?? I want to hear ALL about it!” I’ve been guilty of doing this myself. You won’t really know what to say because of COURSE it was life-changing and amazing and too much for words. So smile and just say that. I wasn’t ready to really talk talk about it for a while. But you will get bombarded- so be prepared. I got a lot of comments from those who were really close to me how different I seemed.. Just kindof different. And yes, I was and am a different person for the better in every aspect of my life. But it will be foreign to them and I had quite a few people frustrated and upset at me because of it. I’ve been in their position too- Just frustrated and annoyed. You will finally have empathy for them as I did. It’s a crazy feeling.

Yeah. You'll have a lot of them just creeping around. Let it out. Don't be scared or embarrassed. I literally had like 5 or 6 breakdowns since I've been back and while I was there. Gosh I was crying landing into JFK from SLC! Only 5 hours into my trip! Yeah. I'm a baby. But you will seriously feel the most love you have ever felt in your entire life. Love that is unfathomable to you. Support from people you love and those who don't even know you at all will be there sending you good vibes and best wishes. You'll feel joy, sheer happiness, love, fun and be so uplifted in those few precious days you have on your mission. You will also experience heartbreak and many trials. It is going to be an emotional two weeks. Prepare accordingly. 

Remember remember remember REMEMBER- It is very tempting to throw all your mission pictures on facebook or blogs and stuff-- but remember!!! NO OR or POST OPERATIVE PHOTOS of patients looking groggy or not their best after surgery on the internet.. If you see someone who has them, send them a friendly reminder. This is to protect the patient's privacy, as well as Operation Smile as a whole. It's hard to fathom anyone who would want to hurt such an incredible organization, but it's true- there are people out there who would do stuff to try to take us down. I feel really strongly about this, so just remember:)

Life as you knew it will go on and it has gone on. Just be sure to send out thank you cards, talk about your mission, and get accustomed. Good luck with school, and Good luck with everything. Welcome back. Proud of you!

Whatever happens, NO MATTER WHAT- just smile. Just give, and just be optimistic. Remember, No Regrets.
Hope this helped a little bit. I know I left out millions of things, but it’s a starting ground.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Breakfast for Smiles:)

This morning, I helped out with the 4th Annual Utah Operation Smile Breakfast for Smiles. It was to recognize Utah's top supporters and donors with Operation Smile. It was at the beautiful Little America Hotel in Salt Lake. We got to help check in very important and generous donors like Governor Herbert and Utah's Doctor of The Year- Dr. Sellers. I even got to put a buttoniere on David Osmond and escort him to his table!


Compared to that big momma!

The breakfast was great. We even got to sit in on it and have a really delicious breakfast. The lovely fruit mix made me laugh-- it was tiny compared to the one we got in Jordan and just made me remember a really great night.. remember Les? ;) It was a nice memory. We had great entertainment and the speakers were inspiring and fantastic. I got to talk a lot about my mission to people who I knew there and just get in contact with a lot of amazing people who will do great things with and for me.

Me and Miss Katie:)

One of the best parts about the breakfast was seeing miss Katie Osterloh. We met at Mission Training this January and she just got back from her mission 5 days ago to Cebu in the Philippines. She is wonderful and we talked about our missions basically the whole time together. We compared and shared stories that were cute, sad, inspiring, and the same. I really loved hanging out with her and catching up. The only person who knows exactly how I feel right now!! She said she's had a few breakdowns and I just have so much empathy for her. It was way fun.

On the tables we also got some cool stuff too! There were a lot of people who sponsored the breakfast so we got these goody bags with all sorts of amazing products and fun things! One of my favorite things was an Operation Smile phone gripper thing that you slap on the back of your phone, and then you slap it on any surface and seriously sticks there! It's amazing and I know it will give me a lot of opportunities to talk about Op Smile and share the love! Can't wait!!!

Governor Herbert speaking about how Ahhh-mazing the Utah Chapter of Op Smile is.. yeahhh!!

The Governor spoke and so did a Dr. Sellers. He thanked our donors for their generosity and how when he was on his mission and the parents kept saying thank you to him-- they were really saying thank you to THEM. I knew exactly what he was talking. I know this first hand. Trust me. There is thankfulness and love in their eyes to each and every dollar we raise, every presentation we give, every time we pass the word- it all goes toward these people who have so little who need so much. and just how there is no need for interpretation or a translator when you look at those beautiful eyes [aka: windows to the soul].

Operation Smile really has given me insurmountable joy, happiness, comfort and the opportunity to find out who I am and want to be. The speakers spoke about Love and missions and just the wonderful-ness of Opsmile. I was so happy. I got that feeling whenever I hear anyone talk about it like that. Just those butterflies in my stomach and that choke in my throat. I just want people to know that it's Real. Op Smile is real. The things we do-- they help real kids and they have real stories and they're just like us. (they are also reallly cute:)

Wade ran by while this picture was being taken.. "Yeah Go Students!".. we felt cool:) [Marci was there but Kwells wasn't! :(]

I'm so glad that I got to help out with the breakfast this morning. It was fun to dress up and be in good company. I wore my Op Smile Jordan Student Programs and Jordanian flag pin on my dress to represent!!! ;) Thanks again to Melissa, Caroline and Lauren for also volunteering pretty last minute. I am pumped for ISLC and for just furthering  my involvement with this incredible, life-changing organization.

Even if you have never donated a large monetary amount, maybe you've donated some bubbles to a student volunteer to take on a mission, a toy, a dollar in fundraiser for one of over 300 student clubs in the US, your time volunteering for any operation smile event, your vacation time or even some sleep.. even now you're donating because you're giving your time to read this and that furthers our message even to one more person. To you- Thank You.

Without you, 

This wouldn't happen. 


Love, Lisa