Dear Friends and Supporters,
As we work into our 35th year, we’d like to take a moment to reflect on the hundreds of thousands of personal transformations Operation Smile has made possible by providing free, safe cleft lip and cleft palate surgeries. We’re driven by the fact that our surgeries are definitive turning points in the lives of our patients and their families, representing a shift from overwhelming despair to living their lives with dignity.
The most powerful aspect of human dignity is the ability to act on one's will and transform dreams into reality. Time after time, we’ve witnessed this transformation when we reconnect with our patients after they’ve healed. Now free from social stigma, isolation and feelings of hopelessness, they are free to become part of the fabric of their communities.
The resulting interactions open up opportunities — personally, emotionally and financially — that would have never been possible without receiving surgery. When our work is viewed through this lens, our vision to provide the highest quality of care to as many patients as possible becomes even clearer.
There are still billions of people who lack access to safe, well-timed and effective surgical care. We view this as a heart-wrenching tragedy and a grave social injustice. Everything we do strives to correct this vast inequity.
As we look back on 2016, we accomplished so much in this effort. Yet there’s still so much work to be done. The love and compassion of supporters like you will continue to restore dignity to patients around the world. Thanks for being by our side.
Enok had already endured a lifetime of torment when he received cleft lip surgery at 25 years old. He would cut through back alleys to avoid being humiliated and suffered from severe social isolation. Four years after his procedure, we witnessed a transformation that extends far beyond his surgical result. Enok’s dignity has been restored, and he now engages with his community with sense of pride and belonging.
Imagine living a life like Virgilio, who feared torment and ridicule so much that he rarely ventured outside of his family’s house in Mexico until he received surgery at age 20; or Efren, who was called “bungi,” a derogatory name for cleft in the Philippines. His real name was ignored and he became identified solely by his cleft condition. Imagine being defined by what brings you the most suffering in life.
We believe that everyone is worthy of honor and respect – to be able to smile, feel a sense of pride and live a dignified life. However, many people living with cleft experience poverty that can't be measured financially.
Siham’s Story of Healing
At a young age, Siham of Morocco had lost hope that she would ever have the life that she wanted. Every time she left her house, she was tormented by people on the streets. The bullying she endured from her classmates was just as devastating; Siham dropped out of school after attending for just a few weeks. Most days, Siham stayed at home, hiding from the rest of her community.
“I always wondered why I was born like this and if anyone would ever come to save me.” - Siham, Morocco
Siham had always believed that she was the only person born with a cleft lip, but at 12 years old, she learned of Operation Smile Morocco.
Completeness of Care
Operation Smile believes every child suffering from cleft lip or cleft palate deserves exceptional surgical care. This vision inspires each of us at Operation Smile to continually strive for excellence for all patients – every child, every family. Our commitment to the completeness of patient care doesn’t only ensure the best possible outcomes; it’s the right thing to do.
Our incredible nurses, plastic surgeons and anesthesiologists deliver surgical results consistent with the world’s finest hospitals. Biomedical technicians monitor sophisticated medical equipment. Child life specialists ease children's and their families’ fears leading up to surgery. Speech pathologists help improve patients’ ability to speak as they heal. The list goes on – each employing a specialized skill to aid in the healing process.
United in Healing
While we know that true compassion transcends borders, the reality is that resource-limited environments present challenges that vary from country to country. Over the course of delivering safe surgery through medical missions, we recognized that permanent solutions for patient care needed to be built from the ground up – literally. Today, Operation Smile operates 29 care centers in 19 countries, providing the ongoing care our patients deserve. Our training and education programs are designed to increase the quality and number of health care professionals, and we are collaborating with ministries of health to improve patient safety in the countries where we work.
Our Year in Review
Operation Smile provides life-saving surgery and increases overall surgical safety, quality and capacity worldwide. In the last fiscal year, we conducted medical programs in 33 countries and our work to strengthen health systems and deliver care has changed the lives of nearly 12,000 patients and their families. We know our impact to be true in the stories we’ve heard from patients like Jane Rose. We also know that numbers can be powerful indicators of our impact.
Jane Rose didn't understand why other children called her "bungi" – a derogatory term for a person with a cleft condition – and not her real name. Being stripped of identity erodes at the dignity of our patients. We were able to reach Jane Rose and provide her with essential surgery that's also made her life so much easier to live.
Building Skills, Strengthening Health Systems
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), for every minute cardiopulmonary resuscitation is delayed to a victim of cardiac arrest, his or her chances of survival decreases by 10 percent.
In many low- and middle-income countries, knowledge of these life-saving skills is not widespread – even among medical professionals. In response to this dire educational need, Operation Smile is committed to offering AHA training programs in the countries where we work.
"I’m thankful that Operation Smile offers training in both BLS and PALS, as anyone who completes these trainings can save lives in their communities." – Operation Smile nursing volunteer and BLS/PALS instructor Florence Mangula
Last year, Operation Smile medical volunteers from 19 countries earned 1,411 life-saving AHA certifications.
Without the selfless contributions of our global network of medical volunteers, it would be impossible for Operation Smile to provide world-class cleft care or training and education programs that strengthen health systems around the world.
Improving Patient Safety in Vietnam
A continuation of a partnership spanning more than 25 years, Vietnam's Ministry of Health is collaborating with Operation Smile on the Vietnam Safe Surgery Initiative to improve the county's standards of surgical care. Our first initiative implemented by a national government, the ministry entrusted us to perform this critical evaluation, drawing from our leading role in delivering the highest quality of care in resource-poor environments.
Operation Smile is unwavering in its commitment to every patient: to provide the safest, highest-quality care possible, regardless of where in the world the procedure is being performed. Our corporate partners also take this commitment to heart. Without their generous contributions, we simply wouldn't be able to serve our patients with the level of dignity we seek to restore in them through cleft surgeries.
Our gifts-in-kind partnerships are centered around patient safety. Through our long-standing relationship with AbbVie, every procedure we perform utilizes Ultane® (sevoflurane), an inhaled anesthetic with an excellent safety record. Our partners at Mölnlycke Health Care generously donate Biogel® surgical gloves – the only major brand with a non-pyrogenic range, reducing the chance of irritation, fever and inflammation in patients.
Pioneering Cleft Research
Alongside our partners at Children's Hospital Los Angeles and the University of Southern California, the International Family Study (IFS) is a cleft research study which sorts the data from genetic and environmental analyses of more than 10,500 individuals representing 4,700 families, including over 3,200 individual samples collected from 1,400 families in 2016. The study seeks to discover all known causes of cleft conditions, leading to prevention methods to reduce global surgical burden.
In the Philippines, Loraine, her father, many of his sisters and their children all suffer from cleft conditions. It's unusual to see such a high concentration of cleft conditions in one family, and that piqued the interest of IFS researchers last year.
Innovation Meets Inspiration: NEXT Global Summit
With our responsibility to patients at the center of everything we do, hard work, dedication and collaboration are required on a global scale. To advance our commitment to providing our patients with the safest, highest-quality care, Operation Smile hosted the NEXT Global Summit in May 2016, which convened the organization's largest-ever gathering of medical, volunteer and business leaders representing more than 40 countries.
"The NEXT Global Summit brings a worldwide family together, promoting member interactions and stimulating the success of future activities of Operation Smile, which is so dependent on its volunteer base. Being part of NEXT reinforces my commitment to continue this advocacy to serve cleft patients." - Dr. Maria Irene Tangco, Operation Smile volunteer plastic surgeon since 1996, Philippines
Today's Global Citizens, Tomorrow’s Leaders
We believe in the power of youth to create a compassionate world. Fostering the value of volunteerism in students is not only an investment in the future of our organization, but an investment in a better world. Last year, our student volunteers served in key roles as educators on medical missions, spread cleft awareness, and convened to build leadership skills and launch a global campaign to advocate for access to safe surgery.
Watch our student volunteers' creativity in action.
The 2016 International Student Leadership Conference brought together 514 attendees from 29 countries around the world to engage in leadership workshops, listen to inspirational keynote speeches and train for upcoming medical missions in which many will volunteer. Twenty student teams competed in a “hackathon,” which challenged them to work collaboratively to identify and solve a global health issue to reduce childhood mortality.
Our Enduring Commitment
After Operation Smile repaired his son's cleft lip and cleft palate, Alex Guerrero (Don Alex) made a commitment to find others living with cleft conditions and help them access free treatment through Operation Smile.
Don Alex's commitment to finding surgical care for his son and others with cleft conditions inspired us to pursue a new approach to recruit patients in Honduras. Worldwide, barriers to patient care vary at an individual and community level. The patient accompaniment model pioneered by the nonprofit Partners in Health and adapted by Operation Smile is one way to increase patients' access to surgery that's both safe and timely.
We work hard to make the most of your gift.
Operation Smile is deeply committed to being the best steward of your gifts. We value the trust you place in our work and our ability to optimize resources and direct funds to programs that will help us care for children suffering from facial deformities. Donor gifts send medical professionals to the children who need them. They also help us teach and train health care professionals and build awareness of the plight of these children and the need for volunteers and resources. Gifts also allow us to administer our programs and raise more funds. All of our practices seek to demonstrate the highest standard of accountability, effectiveness and efficiency.
We have the privilege of working alongside an incredibly talented crew of creative professionals. These visual artists possess the ability to reveal subtle moments in patients' lives we wouldn't otherwise see if it weren’t for their trained eyes. We'd like to offer a special "thank you" to our teams, which played a key role in connecting global audiences to our patients and medical programs through their expertise in visually emotive photography and film.
Marc Ascher, Kevin Ball, Steve Cachero, Matt Cole, Oli Cohen, Bobby Cullipher, Edmund Curtis, Jason Eng, Paulo Fabre, Martin Flink, Shiho Fukada, Martin Gustafsson, Pat Heaphy, Jörgen Hildebrandt, Alan Huestis, Markus Jordö, Markus Junghard, Zute Lightfoot, Carlos Rueda, Rohanna Mertens, Margherita Mirabella, William Moffitt, Thapelo Motsumi, Reynaldo Ortiz Toledo, Jasmin Shah, Peter Stuckings, Kristy Walker, Justin Weiler and Beny Zambrano.