While Thailand’s voluntourism trips are deep and diverse, it’s not often that you have a chance to see larger-than-life individuals lend a hand! Just last February, star of CW’s The Vampire Diaries and Roswell, Michael Trevino, volunteered his time to assist alongside Operation Smile and the Tourism Authority of Thailand as an ambassador to the program.
Operation Smile’s expedition to Thailand’s Mae Hong Son took place following TAT’s Million Smiles Program. The campaign celebrated over one million U.S. visitors to Thailand in 2017 by asking users to share what made them smile about Thailand using the hashtag #ThaiMillionSmiles.
Michael’s trip took him to Mae Hong Son to observe, assist and befriend the locals who were receiving much-needed cleft palate surgeries. Later, his trip took him to and a wider variety of different regions of Thailand.
Upon returning to the U.S., we had a chance to get in touch with him and get his personal account of the life changing opportunity that he and the patients he met experienced.
Q: What first drew you to Operation Smile and what projects have you worked on thus far for the children’s medical charity?
What drew me to Operation Smile was how positive the immediate impact of cleft palate and cleft lip surgeries had on each child. You see the lifelong change in not only the child, but their family, as well. Most recently, I’ve had the pleasure of hosting Operation Smile’s Intentional Student Leadership Conference (ISLC) in both San Diego & Seattle. It’s such an important event because we are able to engage with our youth about the work of the children’s medical charity and how each student can help to create change in the world.
Q: With Operation Smile being so dear to you for so many years, what made the medical mission in Thailand so special?
It’s been a long time coming, but I’ve always been told if I was able to make a mission anywhere, Thailand should be the place to go. For having been involved with Operation Smile as long as I have, and speaking on what happens during a mission, it was special to finally see firsthand how the actual medical mission process works. I also brought my buddy Levi Maestro with me who was able to record footage of the mission, which we hope to share very soon.
Q: What did you accomplish during the medical mission and what did you take away from the experience?
We were able to successfully operate on 63 of the 96 patients screened for surgery. The first day I learned about each evaluation that the families go through in order to be cleared for surgery. It was a very busy day with a lot of moving parts. I found myself visiting families, coloring, and playing catch with some of the children. The following 2 days were spent in the operating room where I saw how our head surgeons, their residents, anesthesiologists and nurses worked as a unit in performing these surgeries. I walked away feeling grateful to all of the volunteers using their time and energy to make the medical mission happen.
Q: Did you make any new friends with the children benefiting from the organization? Are there any special stories that you can share?
I spent a good amount of time getting to know a patient by the name of Kasin. He was there with both of his parents and they were so generous with their time to allow me in on how the process was going for them. As you can imagine, after the first day the family was exhausted and nervous leading up to the surgery. I can remember being in the operating room when Kasin was being prepped and thinking that this child’s life is about to be changed forever. That his mom and dad are going to be so happy.
One of my favorite moments during the mission was seeing Kasin in post-op surrounded by his family. His grandmother was holding him and she had a big smile on her face. Although we had a language barrier, I feel like we were all connected in that moment and happy for Kasin.
Q: We hear you had some downtime after the medical mission to visit Chiang Mai, Phang-nga, and Bangkok. Did you have a favorite? Any recommendations or tips when visiting these areas?
Every place I visited was unique and enjoyable in its own way. Chiang Mai is where I spent the day learning how to properly care and check the health of an elephant. Visiting all the temples and walking around the city of Bangkok was another incredible experience. It was an amazing trip all around, but if I had to pick, I would say island hopping the Similan Islands was truly special. I’ve never seen such clear blue water before. From snorkeling to climbing the top of Sail Rock, it was an experience I’ll never forget.
Michael Trevino (And Our!) Partners
Thanks to EVA Air for keeping a seat open for Michael! Today, they offer more flights from North America to Asia than anywhere else, with easy one-stop connections in Taipei. EVA is a Star Alliance member and one of only 11 SKYTRAX-rated 5-Star Airlines in the world. They’re known for warm, friendly service, multiple comfortable cabin styles, including Royal Laurel Business Class, Premium Economy, or Economy Class. You can also stay connected in the air with inflight Wi-Fi with global roaming, watch a blockbuster movie, or get some rest.
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Baba Beach Club Phuket
Been to Baba yet? Baba Beach Club Phuket is a place like no other. A one-of-a-kind seaside resort waiting to be discovered in Thailand, it radiates with luxury from top to bottom. Enjoy chic resort-style living and pristine sandy beaches to electrifying musical performances and award-winning cuisine, this brand new property nestled on Natai Beach is a gem only 20 minutes north of Phuket International Airport. Guests feel at home upon entering one of the 16 beachfront villas and private pool suites as well as two five-bedroom pool villas.
If you’re looking for a hip yet unpretentious getaway, you’ve found it here. Reviewers and other travelers have dubbed Baba Beach Club, a “music lovers hotel,” as the beachfront oasis has already hosted the world-renowned Circoloco music festival. To add on, the much-anticipated Colours of Love festival descends on Phuket March 27-31 with world-class DJs fit for an incomparable destination!
Timeless traditions and impeccable service are the hallmarks of the St. Regis experience, now residing in the heart of Bangkok, one of the world’s most vibrant cities. With extraordinary pampering at the ELEMIS Spa and an inviting outdoor pool and lounge area with panoramic views, you’re also bound to experience a relaxing time, no matter how many times you find yourself buzzing about the city.
If you are a business traveler, you can also enjoy the ease of having a state-of-the art business center on site, and cocktails at the hotel’s 12th floor Sky Lounge offer the perfect transition from day of work to an evening of well-crafted cocktails, and dining. Whatever your pleasure, signature St. Regis Butler service and one of the city’s finest multilingual concierge teams are always at hand.
Photo: @michaeltrevino / Instagram
Inspired by the spirit of Lanna life in former times, Raya Heritage offers a clean, contemporary take on traditional Thai design. Beautifully curated, one-of-a-kind furniture pieces, artefacts and accessories, sourced from and often created by hand by local craftspeople, are featured throughout. The resort concept stems from northern Thai culture’s simple, elegant approach to life and art, and the social value placed on living in balance with nature and the surrounding community.
Immersed in tranquil natural surroundings on the banks of the Ping river, Raya Heritage’s serene atmosphere makes it the perfect base for discovering the unique charms of the region at an unhurried pace. Raya Heritage is located just 20 minutes’ drive from the heart of Chiang Mai’s old town. The resort provides a complimentary shuttle service several times each day with a drop off at its sister property, Tamarind Village, on Raj Damnoen Road. Many of the city’s most important landmarks and ancient temples are just a few minutes on foot from here.
We hope to see you visit again soon, Michael! 👋