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Operation Smile’s photographers capture the moments of families and children we serve beyond the smile. 

Twelve-year-old Terezinha shields her mouth while waiting at the patient shelter in Mozambique. When possible, Operation Smile provides overnight accommodations to patients who have traveled great distances to reach the medical mission site. Every three minutes a child like Terezinha is born with a cleft lip or cleft palate and may suffer from torments, malnourishment or difficulty with speech. Often, a child like Terezinha tries to hide her face in public. (Photo: Zute Lightfoot, 2014)


Children wait for screening at an Operation Smile medical mission in Guwahati, India. Children and their families often travel long distances to arrive at medical mission sites. Families learn of the medical missions through the radio, ministries of health, community healthcare personnel and through word of mouth. For many children, it will be the first time they’ve seen other children who look like them. They all share a common hope that Operation Smile’s medical volunteer teams will give them a new smile, a new life and a brighter future. (Photo: Marc Ascher, 2010)


Six-year-old Vaviroa and her younger sister, 2-year-old Nambinina, waited for a healthcare assessment in Tamatave, Madagascar with their parents. During these medical screenings, children are evaluated by medical professionals including a pediatrician, an anesthesiologist, a dentist, a speech pathologist and a child psychologist – often for the first time in their life. These medical professionals help determine which children can safely undergo surgery. (Photo: Zute Lightfoot, 2014) 


Three-year-old Bui plays with his mother, Ai, in the child life area prior to his surgery during the 25th anniversary medical mission in Vietnam. Whenever possible, Operation Smile enlists the expertise of child life specialist volunteers who engage with children through developmentally appropriate play and education, often called play therapy. This kind of play helps reduce stress and fear associated with hospitalization or illness and injury. To learn how you can help support a child life area for upcoming medical missions, visit Community Volunteers. (Photo: Zute Lightfoot, 2014)


Three-month-old Suliman is held by his mother for the first time after surgery during an Operation Smile medical mission in Amman, Jordan. Many parents bring their children to Operation Smile medical missions with hopes that they can receive surgery early and live a happier childhood – one without taunting, difficulty with speech, or the threat of malnourishment.  (Photo: Jasmin Shah, 2014)