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Operation Smile

A project to bring smiles on hearts and faces

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Giving children hope and a future

Operating on cleft lip and palates worldwide.

Operation Smile is a non-profit organization based in Norfolk, Virginia (USA), founded in 1982 by Christian plastic surgeon William (Bill) Magee and his wife Kathleen.  They operate the organization as a secular NGO and provides cleft lip and palate repair surgeries to children and adults worldwide. To date, Operation Smile has provided reconstructive surgery to over 200,000 children and adults in more than 60 countries.

Cleft Lip & Palate — the facts

  • In Sub-Saharan Africa 175 out of every 1000 children die before the age of five. In the UK it is less than 10. 85% of these kids die of preventable causes, totalling 30,000 worldwide every day.
  • One in every 600 births is a newborn baby with a cleft lip of palate.
  • There are 18 kids being born with cleft lip or palate every hour, that is one every three minutes.
  • At any time there are approximately 300,000 cleft lip and palate patients awaiting surgery.

Tertius Venter Cleft Lip Surgery Before - Rwanda
Cleft lip - Before
Tertius Venter Cleft Lip surgery after - Rwanda
Cleft lip - After
 "Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened"

— Winston Churchill

I have been serving with Operation Smile since 2011, and have done more than a thousand cleft lip and palate surgeries with the amazing teams of the organisation.

Dr. Tertius Venter operating on a cleft lip in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Cleft lip surgery in action

Operation Smile is extremely well organised; for my first 10 day visit to Rwanda in 2011 they flew in 3 tons of equipment (drugs, instruments, anaesthetic equipment, everything needed), a support team of 50 people including 6 plastic surgeons, 8 anaesthetists and 1 paediatrician. We saw well over 500 hundred patients with cleft lip and palates and could operate and repair 262 patients’ defects – some patients in their 50’s and 60’s! We were Christians, Muslims, a Hindu and people of no faith working together with a common purpose and a beautiful feeling of being a team, of camaraderie.

This year I have worked with Operation Smile in Namibia and most recently in The Democratic Republic of the Congo where we did 138 operations in just over a week.

Operation Smile...
...brings smiles to children

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