St. Louis, MO (PRWEB) July 26, 2005
Life is difficult for a 15-year-old who is ridiculed so relentlessly about her looks that she hasn't completed the first grade. For hundreds of Peruvian children who suffer from congenital malformations such as cleft lip and cleft palate, this is a reality. But this month, the lives of 102 of these children have been changed for the better. From June 25 to July 2, Doe Run Peru, a subsidiary of The Doe Run Company, and Rotaplast International, a North American philanthropic organization established by participating Rotary Clubs, sponsored "Smile in the Andes," a program that provided life-changing corrective surgeries for children from the Peruvian highland regions of Junin, Huancavaleca, Pasco, Ayacucho and Huanuco.
This is the second time the two international entities joined forces to provide entirely free surgeries to children suffering from cleft lips and cleft palates. Similar to the first "Smile in the Andes" campaign, conducted in 2000, participating children received screenings and surgeries for free, with Doe Run Peru covering all of the expenses associated with transportation, the operation and recovery for the child, and expenses for one additional family member. Doe Run Peru also provided the use of its facilities and skills of doctors employed at its hospital in Chulec, just outside of La Oroya, home of Doe Run Peru's metallurgical complex.
According to Daniel Bronson, Rotaplast International's mission director for this team and special ambassador for Peru, the outpouring of local support in La Oroya has been overwhelming. "Upon our arrival, our team was enthusiastically greeted by crowds towing banners, singing songs and showering us with flowers and gifts," he said. "Doe Run opened up their hospital facility and allowed us to take over."
"Locating children in need was not easy," said Bronson. "Several local volunteers hiked to small remote towns more than five hours away to get the word out. Although some villagers had received surgeries from other medical teams before, most couldn't imagine an opportunity like this. Many Doe Run volunteers remarked that, at first, prospective patients couldn't believe their ears. But the success of the first 'Smile in the Andes' mission and the credibility of Doe Run Peru encouraged participation."
After Doe Run Peru's Office of Social Welfare and the Wives Committee, comprised of the wives of the officers of the company, performed preliminary evaluations and selected 180 candidates, an international team of 41 plastic surgeons, anesthesiologists, pediatricians, dentists, translators, various specialists and nurses from eight countries and 10 U.S. states completed the most intense, rewarding phase of the "Smile in the Andes" mission. For seven days, volunteers performed an average of 15 surgeries per day in three busy operating rooms. Some of these surgeries were so complex that patients required several interventions. In all, 148 free surgeries were performed on 102 children ranging from 3 months to 18 years old.
"It's easy to see the difference made by the repair of a gap in the face of an infant; however, we have also met teenagers of various ages, who can now return to school without fear," Bronson said. "For these children, we are changing their lives, their families' lives and their futures."
Some of the touching stories from the campaign:
- Teresa, a soft-spoken and shy girl of 14, came from a tiny village of just 30 people, where she was the only person with a cleft lip. As a younger child, she started her first year of school, but dropped out because the other kids teased her. On June 28, her lip and palate were repaired. Her mother waited in the recovery room, then cried at her bedside, expressing her relief and gratitude.
- Olivia, a sweet and serious young woman, talked eagerly with the medical team. Though 17, she's in her third year of primary school, after being held back and teased because of a speech impediment. Nervous about surgery, she said she hoped that she would "talk correctly" afterwards.
- Dr. William Walker of Rotaplast reflected on his patients' reactions: "I saw a father weep when he saw his son, 2-year-old Jose, after surgery; and again on June 30, when his other son, 3-year-old Esaul, had his bilateral cleft lip repaired. It's amazing to see how powerful the results can be."
"It's been extremely rewarding getting involved and witnessing how people's lives have transformed," said Dr. Juan Carlos Huyhua, vice president and manager of operations of Doe Run Peru. "When we were approached to participate in this program several years ago, we were excited about the opportunity and wanted to help. We couldn't have done it without such great teamwork."
"Thanks to members of the medical community from around the world, multinational Rotarians with open hearts and willing hands, and Doe Run, a company that chooses to support the communities of its employees, 'Smile in the Andes' has become an incredible success," added Bronson.
Rotaplast International has performed similar work across South America and around the world for almost 15 years. Together, the cooperative efforts of Rotaplast International and Doe Run Peru have changed the lives of 207 children since 2000.
The Doe Run Company, along with its subsidiaries, is a privately held natural resource company focused on environmentally sound mineral production, recycling and metals fabrication. Based in St. Louis, the company and its subsidiaries serve as North America's largest integrated lead producer and third-largest total lead producer worldwide, employing more than 4,000 people. The company and its employees are committed to keeping its operations and communities clean and safe while producing essential raw materials Â lead, zinc, copper, gold and silver Â that are needed for everyday life. Doe Run and its subsidiaries have U.S. operations in Missouri, Washington and Arizona, and South American operations in Peru. For more information, visit http://www.doerun.com.
Editor's Note:Photos are available in JPG format. Please contact Kristin Saunders at ksaunders @ standingpr.com or (314) 469-3500 for the file.
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