He thought the boxy object was a radio. Instead, then 9-year-old Beloved Jefeti had picked up a land mine.
In the years since the explosion, Jefeti, now 18, has traveled to America, had intensive surgery, and found a temporary new family. It is one that includes sophomore Mari Trubenbach-Mora, who he met through Operation of Hope, a volunteer-based medical organization that provides facial reconstructive surgery for children.
Trubenbach-Mora’s grandfather, who is an ear, nose and throat surgeon, founded the organization, and she and her family have journeyed to South America and Africa with the organization. She also travels domestically to fundraise for Operation of Hope and her efforts, and her family’s mission, have been profiled by O magazine, People magazine and CNN.
Trubenbach-Mora – who spent her summer in Ghana with the organization this summer – said she would like to get other GW students involved with Operation of Hope as the group continues to expand.
“Wherever we’re invited, we’re willing to go,” said Trubenbach-Mora, noting that the organization is looking to begin operations in Zambia and Mozambique.
During her eight trips to Ecuador, Zimbabwe, and Ghana, Trubenbach-Mora has helped as an administrator and nurse’s assistant – an experience that has brought her face-to-face with patients and their stories.
“I was holding this baby [who had just come out of surgery],” said Trubenbach-Mora, recalling an encounter in Quito, Ecuador. “[The mom] broke down sobbing. She said, ‘You will be rewarded in heaven’ – that stuck with me because it shows the bigger picture of how we will be affecting people.”
Trubenbach-Mora is one of several GW students who devotes time and energy to community service and volunteer work, according to the Office of Community Service. More than 25 percent of the undergraduate population participated in service activities during the 2007-08 school year, according to the office’s Web site.