Beloved, Age 16 – Zimbabwe, Africa

Operation of Hope was donating surgeries in Africa in 2006 when they met a gentle young boy named Beloved. On that memorable day, Beloved and his family put aside their darkest fears of rejection and cautiously approached our surgical team with a whisper of hope tucked deep inside their hearts. Could Operation of Hope mend their child’s horribly distorted face?

Beloved in Africa, standing with his mother Gina.

Beloved’s family explained what had happened to Beloved. One day, when Beloved was 10 years old, the day began it’s slow exhale as the sounds of songbirds painted the air. The cadence of a typical day began for the rural village of Epworth Mission. Beloved chased friends innocently through his Grandmother’s field. Suddenly, Beloved halted to investigate a quick flash that had emitted from the grass below. Beloved knelt down and discovered a metallic object. Beloved thought he had come apon a transistor radio as he attempted to produce a signal from within this object. Beloved innocently touched the object to his mouth with hopes of better transmission.

In that moment, a landmine eliminated the lower portion of Beloved’s face.

Operation of Hope Program Director Jennifer Trubenbach recalls, “I knew at the time we could not make any promises, but something told me we could help this child. I just needed to talk with my surgical team and sort out a plan. As soon as I got back to the US, I put calls out to as many facial reconstructive specialists as I could find.” Over the next 9 months, Jennifer found a way to bring Beloved to the US for surgery as the surgery was far too complicated to be done in Zimbabwe.

Dr. Keith Blackwell and Dr. Babek Azizzadeh prep for Beloved’s 9 hour proceedure.

Fortunately, one of the world’s finest facial reconstructive surgeons, Keith Blackwell, M.D., had an ear for Jennifer’s call. Dr. Blackwell along with reconstructive surgeon Babek Azizzadeh, M.D., and a team of UCLA anesthesiologists, all donated their time and talent.

Beloved’s surgical team.

October 29th, 2007. UCLA Medical Center, Westwood, CA. Dr. Blackwell and Dr. Azizzadeh and a team of 15 specialists, reported the surgery went better than imagined. The procedure involved taking a 6-inch artery that was harvested from Beloved’s bicep. Using a technologically advanced microscope, this extracted artery redirected a vital blood supply to Beloved’s face. “A free-flap,” (a removed piece of skin) was then taken from his wrist and used to cover the area under his nose, jaw and cheek. Tissue was then removed from his thigh to repair the area where the free-flap had been extracted from his wrist.

A note from Gina, Beloved’s mom

“I had lost hope of helping my son, Beloved, to correct the deformity caused by an explosion on his mouth. Operation of Hope did come with hope and at their expense took Beloved to the USA accommodated him and funded the entire lengthy operation to correct the deformity. For that I am eternally grateful”. If it were not for Operation of Hope and in particular, its president, Jennifer Trubenbach, my son’s future would have been disastrous”.

Gina, Beloved’s mother passed away April 2012 and will be sadly missed by the Operation of Hope family.

To catch the entire story of Beloved, please click on the links below:



Beloved & Jennifer Truenbach  at The Style L.A. Fashion Show  27.07.09. Image courtesy of

Beloved & Jennifer Truenbach at The Style L.A. Fashion Show 27.07.09. Image courtesy of

Be a Hero… Coast Magazine, Newport Beach, CA

In Harare, Zimbabwe, life used to be different. Once known for its education system and health care programs, the country’s unemployment now hovers around 80%, a cholera epidemic has claimed the lives of tens of thousands and basics like currency and fuel are in short supply. It was in this kind of environment that Lake Forest local Jennifer Trubenbach met Beloved, a teenager whose face had been disfigured by a landmine when he was nine years old. “The moment I laid my eyes on Beloved, I had to remind myself simply to exhale. It was as if the weight of his sadness was pressing into my chest,” says Trubenbach, who quit her job as a technology consultant to volunteer for Operation of Hope, a nonprofit organization founded by her father, Dr. JP Clawson, more than 20 years ago to provide facial reconstructive surgeries for the disadvantaged. “What if [he] were my child?” she thought, imagining her own daughter, who is one year older than Beloved. “Would I walk to the ends of the earth to get her help?” The answer was yes, and the journey with Beloved began.

It hasn’t been easy. It took a year to secure his passport and visa, and false starts with foundations offering to pay for the surgery fell through. Eventually Trubenbach and her husband, Ted, decided to take out an $180,000 second mortgage on their home to cover hospital costs. “I have never had a single regret for having Beloved in my life,” says Trubenbach. “Maybe someday he’ll tell his grandchildren about the crazy American lady and her family that stopped to love him and ended up being loved in return.”