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One Smile at a Time

One Smile at a Time
One Smile at a Time

Every three minutes, a child somewhere in the world is born with a cleft. Often they are unable to speak, socialise or smile. Operation Smile, an international children’s medical charity that heals children’s smiles, has provided more than two million patient evaluations and over 200,000 free surgeries for children and young adults born with cleft lips, cleft palates and other facial deformities.

July was a busy month for Operation Smile Singapore, with the Kepri-Singapore Friendship Mission and the Asia Student Leadership Conference taking place in Batam and Singapore respectively.

During the Friendship Mission at the Rumah Sakit Awal Bros Hospital on Batam, 110 patients received full medical evaluations with 81 of them receiving free surgery during the week. At Patient Screening Day, the parents of one-year-old Michael Justin told me Operation Smile didn’t just provide free surgery for their child but also gave them the reassurance that cleft is a relatively common condition.

Children born with a cleft are considered cursed in some societies, which result in them being shunned and rejected. Operation Smile includes an educational component as part of its mission, sharing information on oral hygiene and feeding tips. Children with cleft palates (usually a gap in the roof of the mouth) may have trouble with feeding and speech. Part of the Speech Therapist’s role at the mission is to develop, organise and conduct education programs for patients and their parents.

Two weeks later, Operation Smile Singapore was back on the road, this time organising the inaugural Asia Student Leadership Camp that featured over 60 student leaders from Singapore, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Timor-Leste and Uzbekistan. The camp was themed “Inspired for Change”. As hosts, the Singaporean student leaders – all members of Operation Smile’s Student Chapter in their respective schools – shared with their international counterparts, their experience in helping create awareness and raise funds for Operation Smile Singapore.

On the second day of the conference, the students enjoyed a series of seminars by speakers including:

Professor Albert Teo from the NUS Business School on Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Heather Hansen, a speech and communication expert
Tim Wade, a motivational keynote speaker
Elim Chew, founder of 77th Street and public speaker on youth matters, social entrepreneurship and work excellence
Lisa Choo, Senior Clinical Psychologist at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital on positive psychology

Operation Smile Singapore continues to carry out its work at the Resource Centre for Asia, mobilising its medical and non-medical volunteers across the region to create new smiles. Part of its programme includes ongoing training and education of its volunteers, as well as instilling a sense of volunteerism. The Student Chapter mentioned above aims to provide leadership development opportunities to students in the hope they will carry on the commitment to help others in the future.

For more information on how to help, visit www.operationsmile.org.sg.