July 31, 2014
Evan Crawley , Student Volunteer
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What is life like without a smile? That’s what I began to wonder about in 2011, just starting my freshman year of high school.
I constantly asked myself: Why do we smile? For joy? When we meet new people? When we see our friends? Is it because we just like to smile?
I tried to understand the life of someone who couldn't smile because they were too embarrassed, or maybe they didn’t feel “normal” because of a facial deformity. The more I thought about this, the more I was inspired to start finding answers to my questions.
Step one: I joined the Operation Smile club at my school and began my journey as a student leader. Over the next two years, I learned about Operation Smile’s impact in the world and how we, as students, can help initiate change in the world. By my junior year, I became the vice president of my club, slowly working my way up to becoming president my senior year.
The next step I took was participating in Operation Smile’s International Student Leadership Conference. Here I realized what it took to be a successful leader. I learned how to become a better public speaker, and of course, how to become a better person overall. This was my opportunity to make a difference.
By the summer of 2013, I was fortunate enough to travel to Amman, Jordan on a medical mission where I had an incredible opportunity to witness the lives of children with clefts change forever. Not knowing it at the time, they changed my life forever, too.
Upon returning home from my first medical mission, I decided I wanted to do more. I needed to do more to help the underserved populations in resource poor environments where Operation Smile works. I helped plan benefit concerts my senior year in high school and, in one year, I helped to raise more than $22,000 for the children Operation Smile aims to reach.
To be part of a fundraiser is one thing, but to experience where that money is going and understanding that every dollar makes a difference helped to energize my efforts.
I recently returned from Limerick, Ireland where I was a part of the Executive Leadership Council at my final International Student Leadership Conference as a high school student. I help lead 450 students from 25 countires to empower them to make a difference in the world through Operation Smile. I was able to talk to these students about things I have learned throughout my four years with Operation Smile and to help them become better leaders and to start a “Chain Reaction” among their own peers.
Teaching students how to lead their communities back home, or smiling at someone and having them smile back triggers a chain reaction. A reaction that I hope will continue to ignite and empower students around the world who want to help bring hope to children who suffer from cleft conditions and to experience the power of an Operation Smile medical mission.
This fall, I will start college at Gettysburg College where I plan to start an Operation Smile club and to begin a chain reaction in the Gettysburg community.
It was curiosity that got me involved with Operation Smile four years ago, but it’s the passion to continue to help change lives forever that will keep me involved through college and beyond.
A chain reaction begins with you.
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