It’s another new year. Another year to think about the best things to do and the good to add to our lives for the new year. Another year to think about what we’ve done in the past and what we can do better this year and for years to come.

Time goes fast. The year 1984 was when I initially became part of Operation Smile and joined their medical mission in Naga City, Province of Camarines Sur, Philippines. For six years, our mission was to provide free surgeries to hundreds of deserving children afflicted with birth deformities such as cleft lip and cleft palate. It was fulfilling and rewarding. I thought at that time that 1984 would be the first and last mission for me, but year after year, we traveled not only to the Philippines, but to Africa as well. Every year, the feeling was the same-it felt good to help other people.

In 1991, the Philippine American Group of Educators and Surgeons (PAGES) started a similar mission and had a similar vision. For 27 years since then, I have been part of the PAGES group. We have performed over 5,000 surgeries on so many deserving children that needed their physical defects corrected.

It’s now been 34 years since I became a medical missionary. The mission may change, but the vision remains the same in serving less fortunate children who need support in changing their lives. Lives that needed to be changed so they can be a normal and productive part of the community to which they belong.

I have been thinking lately that perhaps it is time for other people to take over and continue to fulfill the mission and the vision of PAGES. It is such a rewarding experience and you can never forget all the beautiful smiles on all of the children’s faces. So I encourage you to join me, join us, be one of us, let’s all change children’s lives. Join us in giving them their smiles again.

Let us all be thankful for what we have and what we have become. Let us all give the best we have and let us give smiles to these children, one face at a time.

– Vid M. Figueras, RN (Founder and Chairman Philippine American Group of Educators and Surgeon)