Bath County High School senior heads to Cambodia

Hot Springs, Va. –

Rebekah Blake, a senior at Bath County High School, is headed to Cambodia this month. Blake was chosen to participate in a mission trip for Operation Smile, a non profit organization that repairs cleft lips and cleft palates in children all around the world. Operation Smile sends volunteers including surgeons, dentists and nutritionists to provide surgeries and care for free.

“I’m just really excited,” says Blake. “I can’t wait to get over there and actually experience this and see all those precious little smiling faces. And be able to be there with them before and after their surgeries and be able to teach them how to take care of themselves. It’s going to be an amazing experience.”

Blake applied to Operation Smile for a mission trip and participated in training. She filled out the Operation Smile application at the same time she was filling out college applications. She found the Operation Smile application to be the most difficult, but it paid off when she got the call about the Cambodia mission.

“I think my first question was Where is that?,’ says Blake. “And then I had to like Google it or something. And I was like Oh my gosh!’ It’s very near China, between Thailand and Vietnam. And so I’m going to Phnom Penh, which is the capital city of Cambodia.”

The surgeries provided by Operation Smile not only provide a cosmetic benefit, but save lives as well. The children with these facial deformities are starving, because they can’t eat properly. They are outcasts and are sometimes abandoned by their families.

“Any other mission trip, I would be treated as a student, but I’m pretty much treated as a teacher,” says Blake. “And there are only two students that are going to be on this trip. And it’s me and my mission partner who is from New Mexico. We have presentations for teaching nutrition, oral re-hydration, oral hygiene. We have burn care and hand washing. So it’s basically once they’ve finished their operation, you want to teach them how they can take care of themselves after.”

Valley Elementary Teacher Ramona Garcia helped Blake start an Operation Smile fundraising club at Bath County High School several years ago. The club raises money for the surgeries, which cost $240 each. The club also put together smile bags with the help of Cheryl Thompson at Tender Heart Quilts in Millboro.

“It has toothbrushes, toothpaste, little coloring books, crayons, bubbles,” says Blake. “And one of the most important things that you want in there is a mirror. So that when they come out of their operation, they can look and can see their little smiling faces that are fixed and new. I can’t wait to get over there and actually see that happen for real. Instead of seeing a mission video of someone else’s, I can’t wait to see it for myself.”

The cost of the mission trip is around $1,000. Blake’s family has set up an account at BB&T Bank to accept donations. It’s called the Sara Rebekah Blake Operation Smile Mission. If donations exceed the cost of the trip, the extra will be donated to the Operation Smile club at the high school.

“I definitely want to thank anyone who’s donated, over the past couple of years even,” says Blake. “Since I’ve started my club so many people have just wanted to donate. There’s too many people to even name.”

Blake leaves on February 21st and returns home March 4th.

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

Current Weather