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Documenting Hope

The view from the top will take your breath away.

That’s what many say who have traveled to the Andes Mountains, and they mean it both figuratively and literally; not only is the vista breathtaking, the elevation is dizzying for many.

Melanie Tek-Visgilio, a former high school photography instructor of 15 years and world cultures instructor of more than 23 years, found out for herself during her first Rotaplast International mission trip in 1999 to La Oroya, Peru, where she worked alongside 15 medical personnel and 10 fellow Rotarians (Rotaplast International is sponsored by Rotary Club).

Tek-Visgilio acted as a photojournalist, taking pictures and writing newspaper articles about the surgeries being performed on children with cleft lips and palates, to keep other branches of Rotary Club informed about the missions.

“They told me that I’d have to go into the operating room and watch surgeries,” says Tek-Visgilio. “At first I thought ‘My goodness, I can’t do that,’ but I went in and I was absolutely riveted. I couldn’t get close enough.”

More than 100 children were operated on over the course of the trip, she says.

Since then, Tek-Visgilio has traveled on missions to Lima, Peru; Cumuna, Venezuela; Cebu, Phillippines; and Sucre, Bolivia. As a Rotary Club district governor in 2005-06, Tek-Visgilio also helped raise money to build an operating room in the burn unit of a hospital in San Pedro Sula.

Next up? Tek-Visgilio is planning a trip related to an immunization campaign to eradicate polio.

—Erica Addison