Monday, November 22, 2010

Brian's Operation Smile Experience

A couple of weeks ago, Brian went on a 4-day Operation Smile mission, in Mae Sot, an 8-hour bus ride away from Bangkok. The 10 middle-schoolers who went were asked to submit a final project documenting their experience and what they learnt. This video is Brian's submission.

The 10 kids travelled on a Saturday and arrived back in Bangkok on Tuesday, missing 2 days of school, for which they had to make up homework. Brian hadn't known that he would be selected for Op Smile (kids have to apply and submit a write-up on why they should be chosen) so he had earlier also signed up for an Eco-trip which started the Friday following his return from Mae Sot. He only got back home on Sunday night so the ensuing week was a hectic scramble to complete all the homework he had missed.

When I found out he was going on Operation Smile, I emailed the Middle School counselor Daneah, thanking her for selecting him and her reply was, "I’m very glad Brian is coming on the trip! Last year it was such a memorable experience for all of the kids-I’m sure this year will be the same. I’m very particular about which kids are selected because the makeup of the group has such an impact on the experience for all the kids. I think Brian is the perfect person to come. :o)"

A few days after the Op Smile team returned, I was beyond beaming with pride when I received this email from Daneah (hope she doesn't mind me posting this).

Hi Lilian,

I wanted to take a minute to say thanks for letting me have Brian for the four day trip-he was definitely an essential part of our group.

I am always amazed at Brian's ability to fit in where ever and with anyone! He manages to always look comfortable and like he's enjoying himself. Brian was spectacular at playing with the kids - from blowing bubbles incessantly to stickering up his face (the whole place was going nuts with taking photos of Brian with his little baby all stickered up too! See photo). Brian kept such a positive attitude and an amazing level of energy throughout the entire trip. He was not only wonderful with the kids waiting for surgeries, but he was pretty amazing with the students on the trip as well. Brian is like this perfect blend of maturity, but also still wanting to play with the other students. He was incredibly kind and patient with the 6th grade girls and got along brilliantly with the 7th grade boys. And yet I could also rely on him to be responsible and act appropriately - I wish I could clone him!

I think one of my favorite moments was watching Brian observe the surgeries. I was being especially vigilant as the last thing I wanted was for one of our kids to pass out or vomit in the OR! I kept checking in with Brian and he kept saying, "I'm fine." The other two boys continually had to take breaks, sit down, look away, etc. And when the surgeon motioned for the boys to come and stand elbow to elbow with him as he was operating on the little boy on the table, Brian was the one who stepped forward and continued to stand there almost in awe of what he was watching happen. I'm not sure if practicing medicine is something in Brian¹s future-but it was amazing to observe his fascination with what was happening.

My other favorite Brian moment was when we took all the kids up to the waterfall after a long hard day of working. The kids of course decided that they needed to walk to the top of the waterfall and then climb down the waterfall-thus getting themselves all wet. So much for the wading only idea! Brian was carefully navigating his way down the falls and happened to be in the back with two small 6th grade girls. It made me feel so good to look up and see him reaching back to offer help to one of the girls, and then a few seconds later, accepting her help offered to him! Upon reaching the bottom, Brian somehow found himself surrounded by all of the kids and good naturedly received a full dousing from them. They then all took turns being in the middle. Again the "we're just wading in the water guys" fell on deaf ears. Ah well, they had such a good time what¹s a few wet bodies in a van with no towels for 40 minutes?!

Thank you for sharing Brian with us, he was a very important part of our trip!

Kind regards,


I didn't expect this, and I was very touched that she would take the time to let me know this about my son. Touched that she would even notice. I mean, I don't get to see this side of Brian. And he doesn't tell me much either, except that he had such a great time and that the kids were really cute.

There are some pretty amazing people working in this school. I am constantly astounded by the heart displayed in the actions and words of the people of ISB. Brian picked his school well, and is savouring every second of his time here. Truly, what more can a parent ask for in a school? :)


monlim said...

Wow, such a super testimonial! Trust the international schools to be so effusive and generous in their praise. I wish local schools could be like that.

And all credit goes to Brian of course. I was so moved by the video and most importantly, you've got a boy there with a big HEART. See, you must have done something right raising him!

Anonymous said...

This is really a great experience and everything for you to be proud of Brian too.


Lilian said...

@Mon: Yalah, I also wish more educators were more forthcoming with their praises, especially when it's truly deserved. But could be an Asian thing, when you do good, it's expected, when you don't, you'll not hear the end of it :P

er...we've talked about this, haha, I think our kids are much better people than we were at their age (or at ours!). I'm just trying my best not to inadvertently impart my cynicism and kiasuism to him.

@QX: Thanks. I'm just happy he's really enjoying what he's doing.

Laura Nguyen said...


My name is Laura Nguyen and I work in Student Programs at the Operation Smile Headquarters. I would love to hear more about this trip and the school that was involved. Please feel free to email or call me at or +757 321 7657. Thanks for the post :)

Lilian said...

Thanks Laura, I've emailed you. You guys are doing a great job, many lives have been and will continue to be touched.