On World Smile Day, Operation Smile Celebrates 35th Anniversary

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More than 50 worldwide medical, training and education programs will take place as part of the UNTIL WE HEAL campaign

We want to let our students know they have the power to make an impact. Alone these are small steps, but together we are making a huge difference in the life of someone else and that’s certainly something worth sharing and worth smiling about.

From World Smile Day on October 6, to Giving Tuesday on November 28, Operation Smile will celebrate its 35th anniversary by simultaneously hosting medical, training and education programs around the world, impacting more than 5,000 patients, medical and nonmedical volunteers, and in-country healthcare workers. This ambitious effort is part of the organization’s UNTIL WE HEAL campaign, a commitment to eradicate the backlog of people living with untreated cleft conditions by increasing global access to safe surgery.

Operation Smile’s global campaign includes a three-pronged approach to eradicating the backlog of cleft:

1. Patient management – Innovative new solutions to finding every last patient with a cleft.
2. Medical, education and training programs – Increasing the number of skilled-local health care professionals.
3. Collecting UNTIL WE HEAL pledges – Building a coalition committed to action in the call for safe surgery.

Today, Operation Smile student volunteers across the country, and around the globe, are launching the Smile Change Makers fundraising campaign. Over the next month students will collect change in their schools, clubs and communities. These advocates for safe surgery are collecting money to provide free, safe surgeries for children with cleft lip and cleft palate.

“We want to let our students know they have the power to make an impact,” said Student Programs Development Officer Amanda Bryer, “Alone these are small steps, but together we are making a huge difference in the life of someone else and that’s certainly something worth sharing and worth smiling about.”

Almost 10,000 people have taken the UNTIL WE HEAL pledge, advocating for increased access to safe surgery. In the U.S., House Representative Scott William Taylor and Supreme Allied Commander Transformation of NATO General Denis Mercier also signed the pledge to show their support for the campaign. Internationally, more than 10 dignitaries have signed the pledge including the Philippines Vice President Maria Leonor "Leni" Santo Tomas Robredo, the Minister of Public Health of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Dr. Oly Ilunga Kalenga and First Lady of Honduras Ana Garcia Carias de Hernandez.

After 35 years, Operation Smile has developed an effective approach to delivering surgical care in low-and middle-income countries. This approach which includes identifying patients and then providing surgery for those in need, as well as training and education for medical professionals, enabled Operation Smile to eradicate the backlog of cleft in both Honduras and Panama. Today the healthcare infrastructure of these countries makes it possible for babies born with a cleft to access care at an early age. These 35 years of leadership and expertise in cleft care have now made it possible for Operation Smile to expand its impact to address the global need for access to safe surgery.

About Operation Smile
Operation Smile is an international medical charity that has provided hundreds of thousands of free surgeries for children and young adults in developing countries who are born with cleft lip, cleft palate or other facial deformities. It is one of the oldest and largest volunteer-based organizations dedicated to improving the health and lives of children worldwide through access to surgical care. Since 1982, Operation Smile has developed expertise in mobilizing volunteer medical teams to conduct surgical missions in resource-poor environments while adhering to the highest standards of care and safety. Operation Smile helps to fill the gap in providing access to safe, well-timed surgeries by partnering with hospitals, governments and ministries of health, training local medical personnel, and donating much-needed supplies and equipment to surgical sites around the world. Founded and based in Virginia, U.S., Operation Smile has extended its global reach to more than 60 countries through its network of credentialed surgeons, pediatricians, doctors, nurses, and student volunteers. For more information, visit http://www.operationsmile.org.

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Nicole Bell
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