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Healing Footprints

There is a life-changing quality to RacingThePlanet events, and it’s not just the competitors who benefit. Every race in the series partners with a local charity, and as competitors head into Jordan for this year’s Roving Race, they can celebrate the fact that their very presence in the country will be changing lives.

This year’s Roving Race is partnering with Operation Smile, a global charity that provides safe and effective reconstructive surgery for children born with facial deformities such as cleft lip and cleft palate. RacingThePlanet have raised more than US$550,000 for the charity since 2005.  
Search for the charity on YouTube, and you’ll find extraordinary videos that reveal what happens when an Operation Smile team moves into an area such as Jordan’s largest city, Amman. The families come flocking in their hundreds, bringing young children and teenagers afflicted with extreme deformities. These are the hidden members of society, who are usually so traumatized by their appearance that they rarely leave their own homes. In addition to psychological pressures, they also endure dangerous side effects such as not being able to properly consume food.
The scale of the problem is devastating, but then the magic of the charity becomes apparent. They pull together a heroic team of volunteers and doctors who perform reconstructive surgery on select patients (it costs approximately US$700 to treat each child, so places are limited). There are images of young girls and boys smiling, post-operation, with confidence surging through their eyes. It’s clear that lives are being transformed.
The money raised in this year’s Roving Race will contribute towards two missions in Jordan this year: one treating 40 patients in Mafraq, and the other treating 100 patients in Amman.
There are also several individuals racing in Jordan who will be raising their own funds for the cause. The three Italians in Team iLupi (Italian for wolves) are fundraising for the Jordan chapter.  This is the first race for Lorenzo Doris, Maria R. Greco and Alessandra D. Conte (and if you’re wondering about the team name, they say: “We are wild and we love living close to nature.”) They explain that they have been following Operation Smile’s work for some time: “When we found out about their Amman mission, we thought it was a good idea to contribute.”
“One of our aims (as a team) is to help the local people through various initiatives, similar to the Operation Smile Mission”. They point out that helping others in this way, may even trump the feeling of crossing the finish line: “If we can give the local children a “smile” than we will have won already!”

By Clare Morin