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05 April 2016

“It starts with healing that ONE CHILD”

“It starts with healing that ONE CHILD” – a message from Nicholas Serra

Nineteen years ago, a freak motor vehicle accident resulted in me spending 40 days in a deep coma and changed the course of my life forever. You see, it was then that I was just that ONE CHILD. I was fortunate to have had a tremendous support system and I gained strength from the community who took time out of their busy lives to reach out and let me know that they were thinking of me and that they were praying for me every step of my journey. Through it all, I learnt that strength; true strength isn’t when you face down life’s challenges on your own. It’s when you take them on by accepting the help, faith and love of others and knowing you are lucky to have them.

My journey thus far has been a tremendous one and with the help of the Saints family I have been fortunate enough to experience many adventures. Three years ago I set sail on the Lord Nelson from Durban to Kochi in India. This leg of my journey saw me spend 47 days at sea as a crew member on board the Lord Nelson, one of two tall ships which have been specifically designed and built to enable people with a range of different physical abilities to sail side-by-side. My dream of sailing the seven seas was achieved and I never forgot that here at Saints my ship once anchor’d and here its course was set.

In the bible it says: “Much is required from the person to whom much is given: much more is required from the person to whom much more is given”. And so, with this thought in mind and in gratitude for all that I have, I decided to try and make a difference to our world “One Smile at a time”. Early in January 2015, together with my family, we set off to climb Mt Kilimanjaro in an effort to raise much needed funds and awareness for Operation Smile.

Operation Smile is an international children's medical charity providing free medical examinations and surgeries to patients around the world suffering from cleft lips and/or cleft palates. Clefts are the fourth most common birth defect in the world and are found in every geographical area and every ethnic group. A cleft lip and a cleft palate can be fixed in as little as 45 minutes, and the surgery can change the lives of the patients, their families and their communities forever.

 I believe that all children deserve to live their lives with dignity. For those suffering from facial deformities, dignity begins with a smile. Each year, thousands of children are born with a cleft lip or cleft palate. They are often hidden away, shunned by their family, and isolated from their community.  

Climbing Kilimanjaro was the toughest, most physically challenging time of my life with the left hand side of my body hauling and willing my partially paralysed right hand side of my body as far up Mt Kilimanjaro as I could go. As I hobbled the last few metres the pain became too overwhelming but left me reflecting on what was the greatest journey of my life. Finally, at 5300m, with the summit in sight and tears in my eyes, I had to accept that I had reached the limits of my physical capability. With a heavy heart I turned back and over my shoulder, watched as the rest of my family continued on. Below, is a photograph of me (in blue) just before setting off back down Mt Kilimanjaro.

Here is my brother Jason (Matric Class of 2008) and my sister Gabriella (Matric Class of 2014) proudly displaying the St Stithians’ flag.

For as little as R 5 500, a corrective operation can change an individual’s life, those of their families and their communities forever. These people are hoping that they will be selected as the next candidate for a life changing reconstructive operation. I personally made that dream a reality for 1 human being somewhere in Africa.

My journey has been a happy one and over the years I have spoken to tens of thousands of school children, parents, teachers and professionals and shared my experience on a personal level. Last month I gave a motivational talk at a corporate event who subsequently made a donation to Operation Smile, once again showing that we can make a difference ONE CHILD AT A TIME. 

Operation Smile mobilizes a world of generous hearts to heal children's smiles and transform lives across the globe. This donation will do that for another two human beings somewhere in the world.

Kind regards.

Nicholas Serra


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