What is Operation Smile?

Operation Smile is a medical charity organization that provides reconstructive surgeries to children born with facial deformities such as cleft lip and cleft palate. Every three minutes a child is a born with one of these deformities.

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In the countries that operation smile visits, parents can’t afford the surgeries. Therefore, there is a big chance that you will live with that deformity for your entire life. That is why in Chinandega (the town where I live in and a very poor one by the way) a club was founded in 2012 to recollect funds to help those kids.

My school’s fundraising club for Operation Smile is called “The Happy Club”. It was founded on August 2012. I joined on January of 2013 and since that moment my life has changed drastically. Through Operation Smile I have learned the real meaning of life, the real meaning of teamwork, the real meaning of helping and the real meaning of a smile. Things I wouldn’t exchange for anything in this world.

 

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Our Happy Club has won the “outstanding international club of the year” award on 2013 and the “best sponsor of the year” award on 2014. We have really excelled from many other clubs internationally. Doctor Bill Magee (Former founder of Operation Smile) has recognized our marvelous effort and he has congratulated us several times.

Although we are a small group from a small town, we are striving to help our country and our people. We have done several activities such as garage sales, raffles, t-shirt and pin sales, “metro por sonrisa” (banner stickers bought by sponsor companies) and our most recent and newest event – A marathon. All of these activities have allowed us to raise an estimated 10,000$, enough money for 41 surgeries.

During my involvement in Operation Smile I have been an active volunteer during two missions (2013-2014). I have taken several roles in different areas…

  • Charts: Is where we fill in charts about patient’s personal information.
  • Speech therapy: Is where a short talk is given to the patient and his/her guardians, very important for the patient’s self-confidence.
  • PIT’s section: Is where detailed pictures of patients are taken.
  • Preop: Is where we fill in patient’s expedients and we analyze vital signs.
  • Childcare: A talk is given to the child’s parents, before he/she enters the operation room.
  • Translator in operation room: Volunteers serve as translator for Nicaraguan and American doctors.
  • Recovery: We assist and take care of patients after surgery.
  • Photography: The photographer tries to captivate in a picture all the special moments.
  • The lodging: Volunteers visit patients that stayed in the lodge. We try to entertain them and make them feel at home.

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Operation Smile has been the most rewarding experience during my high school years. I have experienced things that I cannot put into words. I hope to continue my involvement in this beautiful and gratifying organization during and beyond high school. I have noticed with real life experiences and examples, the changes that Operation Smile makes not only in the patients but in the volunteers as well. It is a process of physical and emotional change and growth.

I am eagerly awaiting the next mission that is to be held in Chinandega in February 2015!

Warm wishes,

Valeria

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