Gloucester teen takes part in Operation Smile mission
Ark resident Emma Rigau has a heart for helping others. After a late summer trip to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with Operation Smile, Rigau, 17, is already anxious to begin changing the lives of more. Her role during the trip was to help educate and entertain the children that were undergoing surgeries for facial deformities such as cleft lips and palates.
Rigau, a senior at York High School, said her passion for Operation Smile evolved from first learning about it at her school. She later decided to attend an international student leadership conference at Christopher Newport University. "Then, I got even more interested," she said.
She went into training for mission work and was all set to go to Egypt earlier this year, but the trip was cancelled because of the turmoil in that country. In June, she was called to go to Rio de Janeiro.
"I got there expecting much poorer conditions," Rigau said. "I expected a terrible hotel, but they really accommodated us and the hotel was very nice."
She also said the people of the South American country were very cordial and appreciative of the work that the volunteers had come to do.
One challenge, Rigau said, was trying to understand the Portuguese language. "It’s hard to understand, even if you can understand Spanish," she said.
Another thing that surprised her was that the children had surgeries quicker than the adults. "So my role was downplayed a little, but I definitely got the experience I expected to get," Rigau said.