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“Why We Keep Coming Back: To Give Life-Changing Hope” by Michelle Murphy

By Stories

In January, Team Broken Earth traveled to Alta Verapaz in the Northern Highlands of Guatemala for a Rural Medical Mission with Partner for Surgery.  After the 11-hour bus ride, we set up medical clinics to triage, treat, and schedule patients needing surgery.  To say the week was rewarding is an understatement. We met so many wonderful patients and their families, all thankful to see us. We even visited some of their homes, where we learned about their culture, their stories, and profound struggles.

One of my fondest memories is meeting Sonia, a 16-year-old girl from Ixcan, and her mom, who never gave up hope of finding a cure for her daughter’s cleft lip. Despite the pandemic’s struggles, we learned that the facemask was actually a blessing for Sonia because it allowed Sonia some newfound freedom. With it on, Sonia could move around freely without facing ridicule for her disfigured smile. Sonia walked slowly to the exam area at the clinic, where she removed the mask. Dr. Art Rideout, our plastic and reconstructive surgeon, met her with an extended hand and a smile and reassured her she was already beautiful. Her cleft lip repair was scheduled for the following month when our team would return to perform the surgeries. It was a tearful yet beautiful moment.

In February, I accompanied Sonia to the pre-op area at the hospital in Antigua and reassured her and her mother that everything would be okay. Just a few hours later, Dr. Rideout and the surgical team had successfully repaired her cleft lip. The next day, I visited Sonia and we exchanged heartfelt smiles. After 16 years, her dreams for a brighter future had come true; no more hiding. This is why Team Broken Earth keeps coming back – to reaffirm the power of hope to people like Sonia and her mother.  We not only fixed Sonia’s smile, but we also changed her life.

A Bright Hoppe Ahead for Jade

By Stories

Our commitment to the best possible surgical outcome starts way ahead entering an operating room, and this little girl’s story is a testament to that. Jade is a highly valued stone in Guatemala that symbolizes strength, gentleness, serenity, and harmony. So, when we met little Jade in Ixcan, Quiche, on January 16th, the name of the stone took a different shape in our hearts. This little girl’s character and personality embody the unique qualities of the stone she’s named after.

When Jade was a baby, her mother sought help from unknown doctors on the Mexican border who did not understand how to support her with the proper surgery for her cleft lip. They cut around her nose and sewed it back together when they realized they could not repair her lip. As a result, she has scarring around her nose. The experience has also created an emotional scar around Jade and her family’s hearts. They’ve been too afraid to try again since then.

But this precious girl is very bright. You can see in her eyes that she’s gentle and inquisitive, and even though she is quiet, you can tell her mind is full of many thoughts. Jade’s mom confirms this, as she’s told us she’s always been first in her class and attentive to her studies. She’s always been excited to do her math homework because it has always been her favorite subject. She loves going to school to learn. Unfortunately, her lip condition

has made her short life difficult. At school, many children avoid her because they fear her cleft lip is contagious. Those who are not afraid relentlessly bully her by calling her hurtful names. This situation prompted Jade’s mother to seek help when she heard our rural medical mission was coming to their village this past January.

Yet, because Jade is now eight, she needs special pre-operative care with an orthodontist in Guatemala City before receiving surgery. This treatment is essential as it will determine the success of the surgical intervention ensuring her gums and teeth are pushed back into place so that the tissues around her mouth can be adequately sustained and do not rip apart again. For over six months, Jade and her mom must travel 11 hours from their village to Guatemala City to meet their appointments with a volunteer orthodontist that partners with us with these special cases. We want to help!

Will you consider

joining us on this mission to free this special little girl from the burden of her cleft condition? We are attempting to raise USD4000 to cover their expenses through surgery. Our volunteer orthodontist will donate her time and knowledge. However, Jade and her mom will still need support to help cover travel, food, sleep accommodations, supplies for her mouth therapy, and the surgery that will forever transform her precious life.

HELP US GIVE Jade a chance!

Standing tall and ready to face the world

By Stories

Having a baby was always her dream, but Silvia waited until she finished school to build a secure future and a home for her family. Having a first child at thirty-seven makes you a spinster in Silvia’s small town, but last December was going to be a special Christmas with the birth of her baby. Yet, Silvia’s plan took an unexpected turn. Her baby girl was born with a cleft lip and a cleft palate.

The people in her community immediately blamed Silvia. It seemed everyone had an opinion on why it was her fault. They say that she waited too long to have a child. They accused her of being negligent with her prenatal pills. They said she was bad-humored, that she stared directly into an eclipse, and worse, that Teresa was born like “that” as punishment for something Silvia did.

Silvia loves her baby, but she has been so afraid to face the community and even some family members that for seven months, she and Teresa hid at home away from the judgment and hurtful stares from others.

She did not want Teresa to grow up like that. So, having heard about the Partner for Surgery Guardian Angel Program from Dina, a local health promotor, she knew to ask for help. Dina visited Silvia and Teresa in their home. She explained that a surgical team specializing in cleft lip and palate surgery was coming to Antigua soon, and Teresa would be first in line.

Teresa received lip surgery from the Smiles for Guatemala Team this July and looks excellent two weeks later.

With Dina’s home wellness visits and care, Teresa should be ready to have her palate surgery within a year. For now, three weeks since surgery, Teresa is healing beautifully, and Silvia is observably taller as she leaves the house to go to the local store, Teresa in tow.

They are both well on their way to freedom from shame and guilt.

Renewed Hope for Jacinto and PFS

By News, Stories

It is easy to picture Mrs. Elma Brito’s morning on any day. She is as careful and quiet as possible as she rises. She wants her little boy, Jacinto, to sleep a little longer while she prepares breakfast for him and his two sisters.

This is the type of morning most mothers could find familiar. Except, Elma lives in La Pista, a rural village in Quiché, Guatemala. She wants her boy to sleep a little longer because he cannot rest the night peacefully. He has a small lump on his face that grows and becomes more painful daily. Elma’s husband tends a small batch of crops near their home, and the family of five’s income is less than US$5.50 per day.

In their quest to help Jacinto, a local medical clinic in the nearest town requested Q8,000 (close to $1,000) to perform a surgery to remove the lump that would stop his pain. This sum seems impossible, as it might mean choosing between surgery for Jacinto or feeding the family. They were forced to wait until Miguel, a Partner for Surgery (PFS) Health Promotor, provided all the details that brought them to the PFS rural medical mission on May 17th.


Elma could barely hold her tears back while Dr. Michelle examined her boy and told her Jacinto was  one of the 57 patients our medical volunteers were able to match for surgery that day.

He is scheduled for surgery with one of our medical teams this coming October.

There is joy in every rural mission when we meet people like Jacinto and his mother. However, this time, our volunteers, staff, and health promoters were incredibly excited, knowing that it had been 805 days since the last time we were in Quiché due to the pandemic. A renewed hope is knowing we could return and meet all the new friends waiting for us in Quiché.

Resuming life-changing missions: A PFS Volunteer Testimonial- David W Low, MD

By Stories


As I write, it has been 806 days since we left Guatemala on our last cleft mission with Partner for

Surgery. The pandemic put a frustrating stop to our biannual missions, and we have missed our friends and patients dearly. Monetary donations and shipments of anesthesia and surgical supplies hopefully provided some measure of support while we waited for the opportunity to resume our missions safely. As the backlog of patients accumulated, our Guatemalan colleagues continued to provide nutritional support and a limited number of surgical procedures.

We are therefore anxious and thrilled to plan our return to Guatemala in July. With safety the primary concern for families and staff, this mission will take place in Antigua instead of Guatemala City, with fewer team members and a slightly lighter surgical schedule. We will concentrate on new patients with unrepaired cleft lips and palates and provide a well-trained surgical, anesthesia, pediatric, and nursing staff.

If all goes well, we hope to return to Guatemala City in the fall with reinforcements that include otolaryngology, orthodontia, speech pathology, and a more significant number of non-medical support staff and expand our surgical procedures to have hand, burn, ear, and secondary cleft surgery.

I have personally studied DuoLingo Spanish for 806 consecutive days, starting in the Guatemala airport in March 2020 while enjoying Guatemalan coffee in an “I love Guatemala” mug. I cannot wait to resume our life-changing mission to help the children of Guatemala.

David W Low, MD

Medical Director, Smiles for Guatemala

Introducing Partner for Surgery’s New Resource Development Director

By Stories

My name is Mariajose Ortiz, but my friends call me MJ. I am Partner for Surgery’s (PFS) new Resource Development Director. While I write this, I am traveling back from my first rural medical mission in Quiché, Guatemala. Professionally, I have worked on different types of projects in medical care. Yet, during my first week on the ground with the PFS team, what I see is different in a very critical way.

Most projects operate out of a central location, where patients go seeking assistance. In contrast, PFS goes to the most forgotten patients, to the hardest and farthest places where few are willing to go to provide the dignity of quality healthcare. For PFS, knowing these people exist is the guiding star that drives every activity for its programs.

The commitment is the same from when we first meet our patients until we walk them home after recovery. Administrative staff, health promotors, board of directors, volunteers, and our faithful donors work in extraordinary harmony to serve each patient as an old friend.

I went to school at a small university in the United States and worked and lived there for twelve years. But my dream was always to serve in Guatemala, my home. I am honored and committed to Partner for Surgery’s mission because I see a lasting impact on my people. I have looked patients in the eyes and know with all my heart that what we offer them is real hope.

So, to end this note, I want to say how happy I am to be here. My hope and focus are to ensure that your support positively impacts our patients, and I believe this is the best place to start!

All the best,


Resource Development Director