October 21, 2014
Dr. Bill Magee, Co-Founder, Operation Smile
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It's any parent's nightmare: Seeing your newborn baby for the first time — and seeing that he has a cleft lip. Seeing him struggle and choke as you try to feed him. Seeing a future for him that's filled with pain and rejection.
Here in the U.S., we're fortunate that those fears are often quickly overwhelmed by relief when a doctor takes your hand and says, We can help your baby.
But in a country like Vietnam, surgery can be expensive, and doctors who are trained in cleft surgery are rare. For many Vietnamese families, the cleft surgery their child needs is impossibly out of reach.
That’s why we have such an ambitious goal for our next medical mission in Vietnam, which starts November 3 — an effort we’re calling "The Next Era of Smiles." We’re aiming to provide life changing surgeries for 700 waiting children — more than we’ve ever done before.
In places like Vietnam, high costs can be just one of many countless roadblocks to safe, accessible surgery. Many families don't even know surgery is an option. Some have never been to a doctor, and don't know where they could find one. They feel hopeless ... lost ... alone.
But powered by compassionate supporters like you, Operation Smile has been working to help Vietnamese families living with cleft overcome those barriers for 25 years. We were the first U.S. based organization allowed into the country after the end of the Vietnam War — and since that successful first medical mission in 1989, we've brought beautiful new smiles to more than 30,000 children.
It's hard to describe the impact that 30,000 surgeries has — but I promise you, that it's nothing short of transformative. Because of people like you, a shy, quiet girl from Hanoi who was too ashamed to attend grade school now goes to college. A little boy from a rural village suffered from pain every single day, but had never even seen a doctor before. Because of people like you, he grew up healthy and is now starting a family of his own. Those children, along with thousands more, proved to countless other families that there is help out there — and that it's okay to dream of a better future.
Those 30,000 surgeries have brought us closer to wiping out cleft in Vietnam than we've come in any other country where we work. We're getting closer and closer to a day when Vietnamese parents leave their local hospital not with grief, but with relief that their baby will get the surgery he needs — just like he would in the United States.
But we're not quite there yet — and this medical mission, launching in a matter of weeks, may be the last big push we need to achieve this incredible goal.
My wife Kathy and I founded Operation Smile because we believe no child should have to suffer the pain, isolation, and shame of growing up with cleft — no matter where they were born. Thank you for joining us in that belief, and for your extraordinary commitment to helping all children.
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