Using Skills to Make a Difference
Eyes and hearts were wide open as guest speaker Dr Tony Connell spoke at this week’s School Assembly about the plastic and reconstructive surgery he has undertaken in Africa and Asia.
The theme of Dr Connell’s talk was “Using Skills to Make a Difference”. He said it didn’t matter what these skills were – everyone could make a difference. “Skills can be random, such as an act of God, luck or a freak of nature, or they can be acquired through education or through privileged opportunities. We all have skills,” Tony explained. “Consider that by the time you are in your early to mid 20s, your skills will exceed those of 95 per cent of people on the planet.”
Dr Connell is certainly a shining example someone using their skills to make a difference. In 2004 he co-founded the WA Surgical Mission to Tanzania. Since then, the charity has been involved in sending plastic surgical teams to Tanzania two to three times a year to operate on children from local communities to correct cleft lip and palate deformities and hand and burns deformities.
In Tanzania in 2002, amongst 38 million people there was no plastic surgeon service. Tanzanians with cleft lip ranged from zero to 65 years of age. In WA, no-one over the age of six months has a cleft lip – all cases are corrected through surgery within the first few months of the baby’s life.
Dr Connnell said the difference they made to 70 people on that first trip to Tanzania in 2004 was absolutely amazing in terms of how the operation change an individual’s life. “A 65-year-old woman was asked if the operation was really worth it at this stage of her life. She said she had been waiting all her life to be fixed,” described Dr Connell. “One boy was called a monster and was not allowed to go to school or leave the house during the day. His only wish was that he could go to school and play with the other kids.”
While the surgical team operated from 8am to 6pm every day for two weeks, they were also teaching local surgeons how to perform the operations. Two to three surgical missions have continued each year, but some of the surgeons in the country are now also able to perform the operations themselves.
Dr Connell said that using skills to make a difference not only rewarded those who received benefit from the skills, it rewarded the person with the skills. “It puts things in perspective and allows you to achieve a balance. It makes you realise everyone on the planet is part of a global community, far beyond the western suburbs.”
Dr Connell was a guest of Christ Church’s Centre for Ethics. Director of the Centre for Ethics, Canon Frank Sheehan, said Dr Connell’s words touched everyone very deeply. “Tony and the others who go about their work of healing and restoration are inspiring. Young people respond very positively to this sort of example. But, whatever age we may be, we are strengthened to know that there are those who venture out of their comfort zones to reach out to those who suffer. During his address, Tony reminded us that humility is our friend. It’s an important virtue. But the other virtue that was clear for all to see was a profound kindness. It was a powerful and encouraging address.”