Cuenca 2011 with Operation Rainbow

the FACE OF Operation Rainbow

This is why we do this. The story behind this little boy is what makes us stop for a second and hold our breath.  His name is Roberto, and in the above image he’d been waiting in line in the hospital with his mother and father for 7 hours.  With little food. Only to present an injury that may have resulted in him being turned away because of it being too advanced or otherwise untreatable.

Roberto’s injury was treatable.  On this trip, like all, were immensely skilled surgeons and a compassionate set of medical support staff, who with a concerted effort were able to let Roberto’s parents know that he would be able to regain important movement in his left hand.

He’s a kid.  He needs to play.  And later, he needs to contribute to society.

These are simple but incomprehensibly compelling needs for the masses of us who may take arm/leg movement for granted.

One mishap, movement forever lost

Roberto is five years old. He and a friend were playing with machetes.  Yes, these hugely long and terrifically sharp knives are ubiquitous in the developing world.  His friend got far too close to Roberto, and in defense, Roberto raised his left arm to deflect the machete’s strike.

In raising his tiny arm to block the large knife, the backside of his wrist, opposite the side of his palm, caught the blow.  Just below his wrist, gone were all his tendons.  The knife tore through all of this little guy’s soft tissue.  It was a fleeting moment, and a terrible mishap. But no more could he raise his hand up from the wrist.  This is likely a type of movement that nearly all of us think nothing about, because it’s easy to take for granted.  But imagine you could no longer raise your wrist nor fingers.

His second chance

Roberto has regained movement.  Because, as of this writing, his surgery is complete. And he woke up from anesthesia with the same endearing smile we saw before he went into surgery.  This little guy stops traffic, at least in this hospital.  Despite his ailment, he smiles quite a lot, and wins hearts in the process.

Above is Roberto, on his way to the operating room.  The guy is a happy little kid.  And he’ll continue to be happier.  Because he can continue to be a kid.  These are simple but compelling things to desire in life – to use both hands, and to not feel y0u’re deformed.

More faces of Operation Rainbow

These are more of the endearing faces we see and care for on these trips.  I stress something that may or may not seem obvious: these are kids.  They have the same playfulness, curiosity, and innocence of any kid in the U.S. or any developing world country.  They all deserve the same thing – to grow up, learn, and have fun.

Please donate

As with all posts relating to Operation Rainbow, this post is a plea for continued help.  Operation Rainbow does all its work through donations and grants.  We need your help.  If these kids have moved you in the least, please visit the above site and consider donating.

Kids you will likely never meet will benefit from your contribution – helping strangers is indeed one of the greatest acts of kindness.


  1. Comment by Anna Medeiros
    on August 1, 2011

    Thanks for sharing your experiences, stories and images with all of us that don’t get the opportunity to be there with you.

  2. Comment by Michelle
    on August 1, 2011

    Your photos are spectacular and Roberto is lucky to have someone like you to tell his story and make his surgery possible! Thank you!

  3. Comment by Maria
    on August 2, 2011

    How precious these little angels are, and I love how you and your camera capture such beautiful images. Great job! God bless you all for such a wonderful program–Operation Rainbow.

  4. Comment by Jess
    on August 3, 2011

    Excellente! Thanks for capturing the magic we experience on rainbow trips.

  5. Comment by Mike Lee
    on August 3, 2011

    Thanks for the great comments. Another post this week as an update. The Ecuadorians are wonderful people and it’s beyond amazing to be there helping with a great team.

  6. Comment by Vicki Beck
    on August 8, 2011

    Your stories and photographs are so inspiring. They bring tears of hope. Thank you to you and the team for the extraordinary gifts of love and compassion!

  7. Comment by Natalie Wong
    on August 8, 2011

    Your photos are great, and those kids were amazing!! Thanks for documenting Operation Rainbow and all that they do.

  8. Comment by Blane
    on August 13, 2011

    Great Pics! Juxtaposing my surgical experience with your compelling words & non-surgical images -perfect!
    Big Up Brother!

  9. Comment by Leana
    on August 15, 2011

    Mike– these pictures are amazing! they make me miss Roberto and playing with him in post-op. You are a very gifted photographer! Rainbow was lucky to have you on the team this mission!

  10. Comment by Jon
    on August 16, 2011

    Wonderful pictures! I truly enjoyed getting to know you in Cuenca. You are a gifted artist. Roberto touched my heart and your story will keep that alive.

  11. Comment by Jon
    on August 16, 2011

    Wonderful pictures! I truly enjoyed getting to know you in Cuenca. You are a gifted artist. Roberto touched my heart and your story will keep that alive.

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