My passion for helping people has led me down many paths, and in fun directions. For nearly thirty years I’ve been an active volunteer with Operation Smile. They are the cleft lip and cleft palate organization based in Virginia Beach, VA. The organization started after Bill and Kathy Magee, a plastic surgeon, and nurse accompanied another group to the Philippines to repair some clefts.
Bill and Kathy were amazed to see the need. Hundreds of cleft patients came seeking surgery. This team did all the cleft repairs it could, but hundreds of cleft patients were left without surgery. That team did not plan to return.
The next year, in 1982, Bill and Kathy assembled a team of their friends to go back and try to help the remaining cleft patients and Operation Smile was born. Every year since 1982 Operation Smile returns to the Philippines and now many thousands of clefts have been repaired in that country. My first time to the Philippines with Operation Smile was in 1998. There were 5 surgical sites in different parts of the country and about 1,000 children had surgical repair of their cleft. Today, in 2020, the Philippines has an active local Operation Smile foundation and they are part of the larger international Operation Smile Inc. organization.
Operation Smile goes into about 50 countries world-wide and works with local foundations to educate, repair clefts and train doctors, nurses, and other professionals. Development of cleft centers of excellence and surgical training rotations to help build health infrastructure in low-income countries are some of the newer examples of great work of Operation Smile.
My mission experience totals more than 70 and now I’m getting ready to go to India for another education mission. Two of my colleagues will be joining me a few days prior to the surgical mission to provide classes for new Indian nurses who want to become involved with Operation Smile. The rest of the team will fly in from other parts of India and the rest of the world to form a dynamic team. Our surgical goal is 120 patients over 5 and a half surgical days. As always, I expect there will not be time enough to help everyone who comes. Stay tuned and I’ll tell you about how the mission went when I return.
Check out Operation Smile at Operationsmile.org