A Letter From Our Co-Founders
All of us involved with Operation Smile enjoy reflecting on the accomplishments of our global family over the past 40 years.
Because of the talent, enthusiasm and energy of all of our health care leaders, we’ve been able to provide not only overall quality care but great surgical and comprehensive health care within the communities we serve. That collaborative talent and relentless compassion has led to the transformation of hundreds of thousands of patients’ lives.
The skilled hands and loving hearts of our volunteers from all over the world have led the charge in accomplishing these idealistic goals. As you have heard us say so many times, “The face of a child becomes a doorway to love.” This continues to motivate our steadfast pursuit to accomplish even more in the decade to come.
As you know, we have titled this “The Next Decade of Love and Leadership.” We all have an ambitious goal to provide access to essential surgical care to 1 million patients over the next 10 years and put forth tireless efforts to find solutions to ensure that more families receive quality treatments closer to where they live.
Our goal is to help facilitate in-country teams to empower our comprehensive cleft care services, setting the stage for excellence in overall surgical care. While “hub” hospitals are in the more populated areas, “spoke” hospitals are in the more isolated communities. We believe that all families deserve access to safe surgical care, no matter where they live.
As we continue to support our colleagues in the “hub” centers of care, we hope to continue to elevate the skills and increase the number of health care providers everywhere. We passionately believe in the investment of Women in Medicine, improving the human health care infrastructure and fostering long-term partnerships while pioneering new research.
It is because of our generous supporters and experienced volunteers that we are where we are today. We are confident that we have the very best people by our side, and your input will be instrumental to the success we all hope to achieve. We have incredible trust in each and every one of you, and no one would be where they are today without one another.
Who better to continue building upon this “next decade of trust” than the people who’ve grown up alongside of us, our patients and their families?
Since the beginning of Operation Smile, we have involved our five children in the organization and have watched how it has empowered each of them. We now have the privilege of watching them see it have the same effect on their children. We have also surrounded ourselves with amazing leaders around the world and have encouraged them to share their compassion and vision with their families and friends to ensure that Operation Smile continues to impact others as we march into the future.
As idealistic as it may seem, changing the face of our world is still our ultimate goal. And as you know, transforming the life of a child begins with hope. Together, we are confident that our collaborative efforts can create lasting change, thereby providing children worldwide with new smiles and the comprehensive treatments that they so rightfully deserve.
Thank you for joining us on this incredible journey of hope and healing.
2022 Program Highlights
We remain committed to our vision of a future where health and dignity are improved through safe surgery.
The following program highlights from Operation Smile’s 2022 fiscal year* showcase the love and leadership of thousands of our selfless medical and non-medical volunteers, the dedication of our staff around world and the generosity of our compassionate supporters. Together, they enable our teams to deliver transformative cleft surgery and care to children around the world, helping them to better breathe, eat, speak and live lives of greater quality and confidence.
These collective efforts allow Operation Smile to pursue our mission: Through our expertise in treating cleft lip and cleft palate, we create solutions that deliver safe surgery to people where it’s needed most.
*July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2022
Launching Our Next Decade of Love and Leadership
Marking 40 years since Bill and Kathy Magee co-founded Operation Smile after witnessing firsthand the dire need firsthand in the Philippines, 2022 was a year of reflection, ambition and activation.
Around the world, our global family celebrated the more than 346,000 lives changed by the surgical and dental care delivered by our volunteers since 1982.
Yet the world still faces a growing problem; every three minutes, another child is born with a cleft condition. Many of these families live beyond the reach of existing hospital care.
We can and must do more.
Building upon the relentless drive of Kathy and Bill, Operation Smile announced its 10-year commitment to increase access to care for 1 million patients who need cleft and other essential surgeries.
Throughout the year, Operation Smile launched initiatives and activations that started the journey toward this ambitious goal.
In Morocco, Peru, Malawi and the Philippines, teams of women volunteers representing 34 countries conducted our Women in Medicine programs, empowering more women to become leaders in global medicine, health care and surgery.
In October, more than 40 teams of cyclists around the world raised awareness and much-needed funds through our series of Cycle for Smiles rides, culminating with longtime supporters cycling across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel to our headquarters in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Operation Smile coordinated and conducted its month-long “Launch to the Next Decade” surgical programs in November, galvanizing its global network to provide surgery and care to 7,000 patients in more than 30 countries.
“But no matter how much has been done and how great the work has been over the years, that’s yesterday,” Bill said, reflecting on the past year while looking ahead to the next 10. “What is tomorrow?”
Our Bold Ambition
Since 1982, Operation Smile has provided patients with health that lasts through life-saving cleft surgeries and comprehensive care, helping them to better breathe, eat, speak and live lives of greater quality and confidence.
However, we also know that much more needs to be done to reach the patients and families currently living beyond the reach of existing health care systems. The need for cleft care alone is staggering; It’s estimated that 5 million people are living with untreated cleft lip and cleft palate in the 36 countries we serve alone. And these people are among the more than 5 billion who lack access to safe, affordable and timely surgical care. As a result, conditions that should be easily treated can become fatal.
To help alleviate this needless suffering, we’ve set a bold ambition for the next 10 years to increase access to cleft and essential surgical care for 1 million patients by creating lasting solutions that ensure more families receive quality treatments closer to their communities.
While providing children with cleft surgeries and comprehensive care will always be the at the core of our mission, we believe that the training and education of health workers and investments in health care infrastructure will be our force multipliers for the future.
Over the next decade, Operation Smile will conduct signature initiatives to galvanize women in medicine, offer unparalleled access to mentorship, training and fellowship opportunities, provide health care workers with open-source training tools to increase their skills and knowledge, and invest in health care infrastructure in places of need around the world.
Women in Medicine: Health Equity Through Gender Equity
To address the shortage of health care providers globally and achieve health equity, we must also address the gender equity gap, recognizing and prioritize the specific needs of the motivated health care professionals who can help close it.
In Morocco, Peru, Malawi and the Philippines, all-women volunteer teams conducted our Women in Medicine surgical programs throughout 2022. Women representing 34 countries across 16 different specialties delivered 280 transformative surgeries to children affected by cleft conditions. The programs also created lasting impacts on volunteers and families alike.
Research conducted with patients’ families showed that participating in these programs changed their gender-based perceptions of medical providers. A resounding majority, between 85 to 98%, said that they left the program feeling more confident about women providing care for their families. Patience and understanding were the two most cited reasons for preference of women health care providers, stressing that soft skills are deeply valued by parents.
In the future, Women in Medicine aims to elevate and empower women in the health care workforce through continued surgical outreach programs, educational and mentorship opportunities, scholarships, gender and health equity innovation and research, and thought leadership that emphasizes the importance of women in global health. Operation Smile’s commitment to achieving gender equity in health care also spans beyond the 2022 Women in Medicine programs.
Dr. Françoise Mukagaju completed her training through Operation Smile’s partnership with the University of Rwanda, Rwanda’s Ministry of Health and the College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa and is now the first woman in Rwanda to become a plastic surgeon. Joining Drs. Yves Nezerwa and Ian Shyaka, Françoise also made history as one of Rwanda’s first graduates of this specialized program, bringing the total of reconstructive plastic surgeons in the country from two to five. Out of 14 candidates, she also received the best candidate award in plastic surgery.
“I would be glad and proud to say that not only have I treated patients, but I have been an inspiration to someone, or I have trained someone to become a surgeon.”
In 2022, more than 100 million people were displaced worldwide due to violence, conflict or human rights violations. These families may face barriers to obtaining health care due to discrimination, restricted services and cultural differences. In alignment with the call of the World Health Organization, Operation Smile is committed to promoting the health and well-being of people in search of better lives.
Creating brighter futures for children and families affected by cleft conditions of all backgrounds and countries of origin, our Transcending Borders signature initiative recognizes inequalities in health care and aims to create more resilient and inclusive health systems that serve the needs of vulnerable people.
In La Guajira, Colombia, an under-resourced desert region affected by sociopolitical and climate-related challenges, Transcending Borders helps families who have fled Venezuela, are internally displaced or are from indigenous communities.
Together with local health authorities, Operation Smile partners with Hospital Nuestra Señora de los Remedios in Riohacha and nongovernmental organizations including Save the Children, SOS Children’s Villages, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, the International Organization for Migration and other local organizations to provide comprehensive care for nearly 300 patients with cleft conditions in 2022.
To learn more about Transcending Borders and our work in Colombia and the Middle East and North Africa region, visit operationsmile.org/transcending-borders
“I had the opportunity to visit La Guajira, and I am overwhelmed by the challenges that patients face every day. But seeing the commitment of our volunteers and staff to support these children energizes us all at Operation Smile.”
Promising a Lifetime of Care
The moment a child is born with a cleft condition, the need to receive proper nutrition becomes critical to their survival. But for many of the families we serve living in low-income communities, the life-saving nutritional resources and counseling they need for their children to become healthy enough for surgery are often inaccessible.
Many children with cleft conditions are unable to breastfeed during the crucial developmental months after birth. Out of desperation, some mothers attempt to feed their child using whatever methods and supplies they have available. But this could lead to inadequate nourishment, causing delays in growth, severe undernutrition, higher vulnerability to illness and even death.
To address this need and ensure more children grow healthy enough to receive surgery, we established nutrition programs in 24 countries including Madagascar, India, Ghana and Guatemala.
In 2022, more than 4,000 children received nutritional care from Operation Smile.
Today, thousands of families are receiving education focusing on nutrition and healthy foods that are available, affordable and accessible in their communities. Additionally, families and patients are provided instruction and awareness around water, sanitation and hygiene, which is a very important part of ensuring healthy habits. Patients’ lives are being saved through timely intervention and access to nutrient-rich supplements like peanut-based ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF).
Working closely with our local teams, we design country-specific curricula with the goals of increasing the capacity of nutrition volunteers and creating educational opportunities for families to learn which foods and treatments are available to them.
In addition to nutritional support, Operation Smile is committed to comprehensive cleft care. Cleft conditions can impact a patient’s confidence as well as their ability to eat, breathe and speak clearly. Delivering on our promise of creating brighter futures means providing a wide spectrum of support including psychosocial care, speech therapy, nutrition care, dentistry, pediatric care, orthodontics and more.
Serving More People in More Places: The Champion Program
Over the past 40 years, Operation Smile has witnessed how the lack of adequately trained health care professionals creates dangerous barriers to care. To answer this call, our global community of volunteers is working together to champion our patients’ need for greater access to safe cleft surgery and care.
The Operation Smile Champion Program partners leading local medical professionals with international educators to provide bidirectional learning to local trainees. Through educational exchanges and long-term mentorship, the Champion Program aims to build local capacity by increasing the number of available medical professionals equipped with the passion and skills to serve.
The inaugural Champion Program took place in Rwanda in March 2022, building upon 15 years of training and education programs in the country. Next was the July 2022 program in Escuintla, Guatemala, which mobilized more than 40 Guatemalan mentees and volunteers and established long-term solutions by bolstering the skills of local health care professionals. The Champion Program initiative was also later implemented in Accra, Ghana, and La Guajira, Colombia. The program is set to expand to five more countries in 2023 and to 20 by 2024.
Operation Smile’s inspiration for the Champion Program was born from the success of our resident training program in Kigali, Rwanda. As of 2022, the partnership between Operation Smile, the University of Rwanda, the Rwanda Ministry of Health, and the College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa has more than doubled the number of certified plastic surgeons serving the country from two to five.
Many of our patients living in the hardest-to-reach areas face additional challenges in receiving the surgery they need. Likewise, future medical professionals in rural areas lack access to education that could enhance their ability to deliver care in their communities. The Champion Program utilizes the hub-and-spoke model of care delivery by leveraging local leadership at well-equipped and staffed “hubs” to extend care closer to the remote communities and to empower “spoke” partner hospitals.
The Champion Programs are contextually appropriate to the unique needs of the country and community in which they function. Each one is designed to empower local leaders with the skills and support needed to provide safe surgical care to the patients who need it most.
“If you’re planning for a year, sow beans. If you’re planning for a decade, plant trees. If you’re planning for a lifetime, educate people”
Transforming Lives at Scale
The need for safe, effective and timely surgery is immense globally: Two-thirds of the world’s population lacks access to the surgical care they need. It is estimated that 7 million patients are living with untreated cleft conditions, the majority of which are in the countries that Operation Smile serves. As Operation Smile looks ahead to its next decade, we are making transformative investments in both the training of health care workers and health infrastructure that will help close these dire gaps.
In 2022, the organization launched Operation Smile Academy, an open-source virtual learning platform designed to enhance the experience of medical education in low- and middle-income countries that will elevate the capacity for cleft care worldwide. Together with volunteers, international clinicians and renowned specialists, the platform offers a network of educational content that is accessible from anywhere. Operation Smile Academy engages learners of every skill level across all specialties within the comprehensive cleft care team.
Operation Smile Academy is the latest of a long line of capacity-building and scalable research initiatives driven by the organization and features publications in the form of downloadable texts and audiovisual abstracts.
Our International Family Study is exploring evidence-based solutions for the potential prevention of cleft conditions by studying people from underrepresented populations. The Global Essential Surgery Project, a partnership with the UBS Optimus Foundation, addresses and closes gaps in health care infrastructure. Our Global Surgery Fellowship provides up-and-coming medical professionals with opportunities to expand both their skills and Operation Smile’s impact. Operation Smile’s Policy and Advocacy team engages with NGOs and governments and is empowering global surgery advocates in low- and middle-income countries, creating a platform for health policy changes.
These and many more specialized global medical education programs are designed so that more people can provide care to more patients in more places around the world.
Connecting Our Future Leaders
From raising donations and awareness through local service projects to sharing their personal stories on a global stage, our student volunteers prove they are the future of our organization – and the world.
In Miami, Florida, more than 200 student volunteers representing 20 countries came together for Operation Smile Student Programs’ International Student Leadership Conference (ISLC). Held at the University of Miami and sponsored by longtime Operation Smile partner Align Technology, the gathering was an energizing and emotional experience; The 2022 conference was the first held in-person since the onset of the pandemic.
For students like 15-year-old Willy Sikora, ISLC showcased a loyal and unwavering community.
Throughout 2022, Student Programs hosted Cleft Connect Chat, a virtual community that enables teens like Willy to build friendships, share their personal experiences and engage in conversations with peers born with cleft conditions. During ISLC, Willy was one of the students born with a cleft condition who joined others from Cleft Connect Chat onstage.
“It’s been nice to be able to branch out and talk to people with similar issues. I’ve really enjoyed being able to talk to them,” Willy said. “It’s nice to know that they also know what we’ve been through. They have a level of understanding that not many other people have.”
Willy transformed his inspirational experience at into action when he volunteered as a student ambassador for Operation Smile’s Cycle for Smiles ride in Basalt, Colorado. There, he delivered a moving speech to kick off the awareness and fundraising event.
“[I want] more awareness to these certain problems,” he said. “Also, asking people what they’re doing to help fix these problems.”
At our Global Headquarters in Virginia Beach, the Anthony L. and Hideko S. Burgess Interactive Learning Center celebrated its inaugural year of providing inspiration through education. The immersive exhibit hosted 260 tours and served more than 2,600 people from over 270 community groups and schools through field trips, tours, special events and virtual opportunities.
To learn more about our thousands of student volunteers devoted to changing the lives of our patients through leadership, service, advocacy and education, check out our Student Programs Impact Report.
To learn more about the Interactive Learning Center, visit operationsmile.org/interactive-learning-center
“It’s been nice to be able to branch out and talk to people with similar issues. I’ve really enjoyed being able to talk to them.”
Operation Smile unites a global community of like-minded supporters who believe that all families have the universal right to access the safe surgery and comprehensive cleft care they need and deserve. The support of compassionate and generous individual donors, foundations and corporations allow us to pursue our mission of creating solutions that deliver safe surgery to people where it’s needed most. From financial contributions that fuel our organization to gifts-in-kind that equip our teams around the world with state-of-the-art supplies and equipment, we would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to each and every one of our supporters on behalf of the children and families we have the privilege to serve.
A.S. Watson Group, AbbVie, Academy of Dance and Gymnastics, A-dec, Akorn, Align Technology, Alphapals, Amazon Studios, Ambience, Ansell, Bank of America Charitable Gift Fund, Barefoot Dreams, Baxter, BD, Birdsong Peanuts, Capital Group Companies Charitable Foundation, Charities Aid Foundation America, Chevron, Christian Broadcasting Network, Cisco, Close To My Heart, Colgate, DDS Dental Supplies, Don Watkins’ support of Women in Medicine, Enova, Hasbro, Henry Schein, Hikma, Johnson & Johnson, Jubilant Cadista, Kenvue, Marriott Asia Pacific, Mediterranean Shipping Company, Medtronic, Minneapolis Foundation, Mölnlycke, Moon Oral Care, Norfolk Southern, PepsiCo, Pigeon, Portfolio Recovery Associates, Ronin, See’s Candies, Sika Asia/Pacific, Sorenson Legacy Foundation, Stryker, SV Land Holdings LLC, The Port of Virginia, The Sharon D. Lund Foundation, Thomas W. Dye Homes, TisBest Philanthropy, TowneBank,UBS Optimus Foundation, XGen Pharmaceuticals DJB, Zydus Pharmaceuticals
We hold ourselves accountable to the trust you place in our work to improve health and dignity through safe, effective and timely surgery.
Committed to being the best steward of your gifts, we direct funds to programs that bring the highest standards of care to people living with cleft and other facial and dental conditions.
Most importantly, we pride ourselves on following the highest standards of accountability, effectiveness and efficiency.
As one of the largest volunteer-driven surgical organizations, Operation Smile celebrates the hundreds of employees around the world who work tirelessly to ensure that the organization continues to extend its impact. Our heartfelt gratitude also goes out to the families of employees and volunteers whose sacrifices make our life-changing work possible.
“The child with a cleft condition took us back to the community to show us the need and get us to pay attention to the health system.” – Bill Magee, Co-Founder and CEO, Operation Smile
We work with an incredible group of creative professionals, volunteers and supporting staff who help us connect global audiences to the heart of each story we tell. Their approach to portraying the beauty and dignity of patients and the passion of volunteers brings us closer to their experiences and helps support our work, transforming the lives of patients, their families and health systems around the world. Thank you for your part in bringing these stories to life.
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