More than 35 years ago, Dr. Bill Magee and his wife Kathy traveled to Naga, Camarines Sur to perform operations on children who had cleft lips and cleft palates. Expecting to handle only a handful of cases, the couple was surprised as they were greeted by nearly 300 families pleading for aid. The experience was what inspired Bill to begin Operation Smile, a global non-profit organization that provides free surgeries to children with clefts.
It’s clear that the initial benefit of a cleft surgery is a new smile and improved nutrition and speech. For the long-term, however, it is social benefit that makes a lasting impact. This is what Operation Smile aims for as the organization frees children from self-doubt and bullying. Christine Lu, the Program Director for Operation Smile Philippines, expounds on this by saying, “Through our surgical missions, we aim to heal every child of social and physical burdens, while maintaining the highest quality clinical care… By offering more than just surgery, (we also offer speech therapy, dental services, and post-operative care) we are able to provide holistic treatment to our beneficiaries.”
Smiles for Miles
Operation Smile has a network of thousands of medical and non-medical volunteers from more than 80 countries who generously donate their time, knowledge, and skills to change lives not just of children with clefts, but also of these children’s loved ones. Dr. Angel Macatangay, a volunteer anesthesiologist in a medical mission in Batangas last year reveals, “The best moment for me in the mission is immediately after surgery at the Recovery Room when I give a newly-operated child back to a parent, it’s like I’m giving them a better chance at life.”