Four charitable “spirits” of Christmas

This inspiring quartet share stories of how they help others in the Giving Season.

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Volunteering with Smile Asia
Rumya Ananthan, 28, a, volunteers at Smile Asia, which provides free surgery to children with cleft lips. Married to she gave birth to her first child, a daughter named.

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Although Rumya Ananthan, 28, was already working with kids as senior staff nurse at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, she was determined to make good use of her experience to help others.

Shortly after coming across some information on Smile Asia, she was on her way to her first mission. Smile Asia assembles volunteers to correct children’s cleft lips and other facial deformities in less-developed countries. “I assess the patient prior to the operation and nurse them after that,” elaborates Ananthan, who has been to Myanmar and Uzbekistan on missions.

But while she’s familiar with the task at hand, the environment she works in during these missions is very different. “We don’t always have everything on hand like we do here in Singapore,” she notes. “Sometimes we can’t find a stand for the drips, so we need to improvise by sticking tape to the wall.”

The resilience of the children she meets — how strong they are, even when they are ill — is something that always tugs at her heartstrings “They are just thankful for anything they get. They are happy to share a bed, as long as they can get the surgery.”

The kisses, hugs and random drawings she is rewarded with are what keep Ananthan going, even when she’s tired. During each mission, the team will attend to more than 100 patients and often put in 12 hour-long shifts.

The first patient she helped as a Smile Asia volunteer was less than a year old and had a cleft lip. “After the surgery, the transformation was simply beautiful. The mum was so happy, she was in tears,” she recalls.

Besides settling in to care for daughter Diya, born in early November 2015, Ananthan — together with husband air force officer Pravin Loganathan, 30 — is also eagerly anticipating the Christmas season. “I simply love the festive air. Plus, it’s wonderful when our paediatric doctors go around to the wards to bring festive cheer to the children through Christmas carols,” she beams.

• Best gift received… A handmade board displaying my name in fairy lights made by a dear friend.
• Favourite song… The First Noel.
• Favourite drink… All the Christmas-themed coffees!