Increasing Surgical Care for Cleft Conditions
One of every 500-750 children worldwide is born with a facial deformity known as a cleft lip or cleft palate. If left untreated, the condition can result in social isolation and serious health concerns, such as malnutrition and infection. There is a clear need for increasing surgical care for cleft conditions.

While cleft conditions can almost always be reversed, many impoverished and/or rural families are unable to access affordable care in order to get their children the necessary medical attention. Operation Smile believes that all patients deserve exceptional surgical care regardless of where they are born or how much money their families make.

Operation Smile has been executing life-saving surgical procedures for children around the world for over 35 years. Their advocacy efforts expounding the importance of increasing surgical care for cleft conditions have touched millions. Consequently, their donor base continues to grow. In the month of July, the organization has plans to execute several medical missions in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Tame, Columbia and Ambato, Ecuador, to name a few.

Beyond the numbers, Operation Smile prides itself on personable and compassionate care. CEO and founder Dr. Bill Magee asks of his donors, “What if this was your child who needed the surgery?” He notes how this consideration makes people realize that the work he does not only rewarding but absolutely necessary.

Adding to the personal nature of the organization, it focuses on individual stories of patients and their families both before and after the life-altering surgery.

The healing story of Siham, a young girl from Morroco, demonstrates just how difficult overcoming the social obstacles of looking different than your peers can be. Every time she left her house, people tormented her in the streets. After only a few weeks of school, Siham dropped out because of the bullying she had endured. Doctors informed her that surgery was possible, but Siham knew that her family would never be able to afford the travel expenses to reach the hospital, let alone the procedure itself.

Stories like Siham’s touch readers at a personal level and help increase the reach of the organization’s successes.

Powered by its compassionate donors and volunteers, Operation Smile has provided hundreds of thousands of free cleft condition surgeries for children and young adults in developing countries. This care has grown exponentially since its beginning in 1982. One element that makes this organization unique from many other medical nonprofits is that it works within the local community’s health providers and cultural norms rather than independently to provide comfortable care for their patients. Each mission is different. Some require importing medical equipment and others need local expertise.

While the root cause of cleft conditions is not yet clear, Operation Smile and other organizations are researching ways to prevent the deformity. For over 30 years, the nonprofit has grown its donor and volunteer bank exponentially. In addition, it has gained valuable experience in unique areas by teaming up with local medical programs in developing countries.

The success of Operation Smile in increasing surgical care for cleft conditions lies in its sustainable practices. They involve local community volunteers and emphasize the importance of donations to fund the services rather than charging patients. The organization benefits everyone involved and will likely continue to grow.

Sarah Coiro
Photo: Flickr

operation smile
Balsam Hill and Operation Smile announced the #CelebritiesforSmiles campaign that auctioned off ornaments autographed by celebrities to help children in need.

Balsam Hill, an online retailer of Christmas home décor products, and Operation Smile, an international medical operation that serves children, collaborated to help raise money for children and families in need of medical help.

Operation smile is a nonprofit medical service organization based in Virginia Beach that works to reduce the occurrence of cleft lips and palates worldwide. The organization operates in more than 60 countries and has an international network of thousands of medical volunteers from more than 80 countries to help the lives of children.

The organization also raises awareness of cleft issues and organizes student programs worldwide to promote leadership, commitment and volunteerism values across many young lives. Operation smile also donates medical resources and provides continuous treatment for family and children in need of medical services.

The campaign auctioned ornaments signed by celebrities from the fashion industry to the sports industry. The auction started on December 9 and lasted until December 16.

“It is such a pleasure to partner with Balsam Hill because they are incredibly motivated and dedicated to helping give smiles to these children around the world,” said Dr. Bill Magee, CEO and Co-Founder of Operation Smile.

Before the campaign took off, Hill pledged $25,000 to Operation Smile and donated ornaments from one of their high-quality décor collections. More than 30 donated holiday ornaments autographed by well-known celebrities inducing Adam Levine, Mark Wahlberg, Kate Walsh and the entire cast of Days Of Our Lives were auctioned online beginning December 9. All the proceeds from the sales of the ornaments were donated to Operation Smile.

The campaign quickly caught attention as the #CelebritiesforSmiles campaign was trending on popular social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. Updates from the campaign also appeared on Balsam Hill’s Facebook page that has more than 27,000 followers.

To date, Operation Smile has provided over 220,000 free surgical treatments to children around the world from families who cannot afford it.

Sandy Phan

Sources: Operation Smile, Balsam Hill

Zachary Levi
While many of the conversations about the San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) have been about the latest updates and footage from some of the hottest movies, some of the guest panels were doing good deeds.

Zachary Levi, from the television show, Chuck, used the opportunity to entice the fans as well as raise funds for Operation Smile. Some of the “Conversations for a Cause” panels hosted by Levi’s company, The Nerd Machine, included Badass Women, the cast of Orphan Black, and a conversation with Nathan Fillion, among several others. Last year, Nerd HQ, an offshoot of The Nerd Machine, raised around $215,000 for Operation Smile and this year they beat previous fundraising efforts.

Operation Smile is a non-profit organization that helps to pay for cleft palate surgeries in underprivileged areas. The deformity has a high prevalence rate and cleft lip and palates can inhibit a child’s ability to eat, speak, hear and breathe. Unfortunately, like many disabilities, cleft palate is incredibly stigmatized and many people born with it have trouble finding employment.

While Nerd HQ has garnered a reputation for innovation and technology in the four years since its inception, it is also gaining a philanthropic name. Since its partnership with Operation Smile, the non-profit estimates that Nerd HQ has raised over $400,000 to pay for the surgeries.

With many of the attendees noting Nerd HQ’s “Conversations for a Cause” as one of the highlights of the Comic-Con. Over the past two years, attendance and donations have increased so hopefully next year Nerd HQ can continue to increase its philanthropic donations.

– Kristin Ronzi

Sources: The Nerd Machine
Photo: Zachary Levi Star