In 16 years, Operation Smile has treated over 45,000 children and young adults with deformities in the U.S. and abroad, offering hope and changing the face of the world one smile at a time. Founded by Dr. William Magee and his wife, Kathleen, the group has been turning deformed faces into smiling faces in countries all over the world, donating $28 million in medical services each year.
This July, 60 Operation Smile volunteers joined a two-week mission to Romania and treated 160 patients. Since 1991, more than 700 surgeries have been performed in Romania – with a great deal of care going to the country’s many abandoned and orphaned children.
In August, nurses, doctors and technicians came from the U.S., Canada, Italy, and the Middle East for the first-ever OpSmile mission to Morocco, offering training programs for local medical staffs, and care for 126 patients. One 27-year-old man who grew a mustache to cover his cleft lip burst into tears after seeing his new smile, repaired just in time for his marriage ceremonies.
On October 10, a successful 10-day mission to Thailand concluded after surgeries on 167 patients. One of them, Som Namwong was a 77-year old poor farmer with a horribly disfiguring cleft lip. The medical team was delighted when the kind-faced man was chosen to receive surgery. When his cleft lip was repaired he was dubbed ‘Handsome.’ He told them that the Thai people believe that if a person lives a good life, he will be allowed to return for another life. Som said he would like to return in a life where he could speak English- so he can speak with Operation Smile to express his joy.
The Smile Train in China
The Smile Train is a new vehicle in Operation Smile’s quest to help children in developing countries. With full support of the government and U.S. Companies doing business there, The Smile Train volunteer medical teams will visit small villages in China. Working side by side with local surgeons for two weeks, the team will operate on hundreds of children and provide extensive surgical training and education for the local medical community.
When The Smile Train pulls out of town, it will leave behind $150,000 worth of operating room equipment and computers. In exchange for the free equipment and training, the local hospital makes a commitment to operate on one indigent child a day, for free. The hospitals will be supported with missions and supplies to help them keep that promise. After five years, local professionals will be performing 12 times as many surgeries as The Smile Train – an important step toward self-sufficiency
Youth Groups Raise Money, Awareness
Op Smile has its own youth club that not only raises funds and awareness, but trains youth to help on Medical Missions. Like two New Jersey high school juniors who were part of the Thailand team.
Melissa Fogg and Seung Shin from Lawrence High School,with support and guidance from their club sponsor, Christine Stockton, a New Jersey teacher – played with the children to entertain and distract them from their upcoming surger-ies. They play games, blow bubbles and draw pictures with children of all ages. They traveled to day care centers and taught many Thai children the proper way to brush their teeth.
Operation Smile’s sixth annual Youth Leadership Conference, held in Salt Lake City from July 31-Aug. 5, attracted about 370 high school and college students from 22 states and eight countries for a rigorous week of activities, which included speakers, educational workshops with medical professionals, team-building games and physical challenges (white-water rafting and ropes courses). At the end of the conference, the youths held a three-hour dance marathon, bringing in more than $18,000 through pledges and passing a hat.