Nothing is impossible: Lala’s “personal duty”
Nelson Mandela once said “it only seems impossible until it is done”. Andriarimalala Solo Radaoroson aka. Lala’s case in Madagascar is the embodiment of this quote. His passion for Operation Smile’s work has helped to change many people’s lives in his region.
Lala’s story begins with his daughter. He had never seen anyone with a cleft clip until his daughter Laly was born with the condition. He said “I had heard about it as a boy, but I was very sad when she was born as I had never thought it could happen to her”. As her condition was difficult to manage, and the likelihood of her falling sick was greater than other children, Lala worried that she would not survive. In September 2015, when Laly was nearly 2 years old, Lala heard a radio announcement about an upcoming Operation Smile Medical Mission in Tamatave. Believing that a miracle had just come to him, he took his daughter and travelled nearly 400 km by bus to reach the mission site. Arriving at the mission, Laly was qualified to be chosen for surgery. Lala is still deeply moved when he remembers the moment when he saw his daughter’s face after the operation; “there is no word to describe our happiness, she was finally like everyone else.”
Returning to his village, Lala felt that he had a personal duty to tell people about the life-changing missions Operation Smile conducts in Madagascar. “When I saw all the people with this problem, I decided to tell everyone that there is an organization that does this work,” he said enthusiastically. “Many people think I am a liar at first and trying to lure them into something strange, but eventually, they accept me.”
Believe it or not, Lala managed to persuade 33 people from his region to travel to the Antananarivo medical mission in April 2016. On that mission, 21 patients were treated, including adults as well as children. Their lives were changed forever. Those that were not able to receive surgery on that mission will be assisted at upcoming missions. Those lives were touched not only by Operation Smile’s medical volunteers but, very importantly, by Lala’s courage and compassion in reaching out others through his own experience.Lala described how he would visit families around his district by bicycle. Taking the time out from his job working as a builder meant that his mission to reach people had a financial sacrifice. However, after seeing his daughter’s life changed, Lala believes that there are more meaningful things than money. Lala said that he hoped to bring the same happiness to people affected by cleft lips and palates in his hometown.
He explained that his outreach work has 3 basic steps. Firstly, he shows people before and after operation photos of his daughter. Secondly, he convinces them that it’s not impossible for them to have the same transformation. Finally, Lala tells them that they don’t have to pay anything for the operation.
In this way, Fidelis’ life was changed thanks to Lala. Fidelis’ mother said she found hope for her son – an 8 year old boy who loves to play soccer. When Lala came and told them how Operation Smile could help, the little boy stuck close to his mother and wouldn’t show his face because of his cleft condition. “People, especially children, tease him and so he often runs away from school as he cannot bear the teasing,” she said. “We didn’t know it could be fixed until Mr. Lala came and showed us the pictures. Now we are so happy that our son will live a normal life.”
“I’m not going to stop!” Lala said proudly. “Once I have finished with my district I will move on to the next one. I want Malagasy people to know Operation Smile can help them.”
We feel privileged to tell Lala’s story, and are inspired by the work being done in Madagascar. There are many like Lala that work tirelessly to recruit patients in all corners of the world. Their sacrifice, passion, and courage make it possible for Operation Smile to change lives for the better.
(Thanks to Sean Robson and Margherita Mirabella for information and photos!)