Smile Stories: College student volunteers with Operation Smile to help children born with cleft conditions
In celebration of National Volunteer Month, KC Lowther, a local college exchange student from South Africa, wants to encourage people to volunteer and share her story about volunteering with an international children’s non-profit. “Get involved with something that is greater than you! Everybody has their lives, routines, problems and comfort zones but when you remove yourself from just being concerned about your own life and start investing your time in others and taking that big leap out of your areas of comfort - that is when you will feel most alive,” said Lowther.
The 21-year-old law student has volunteered with Operation Smile student programs since 2016. She recently traveled to Cebu, Philippines for her second medical mission with Operation Smile, an international medical charity that has provided hundreds of thousands of free surgeries for children and young adults in low-and-middle income countries who are born with cleft lip, cleft palate or other facial difference. During the medical mission, Operation Smile helped to provide over 130 new smiles.
“I’ve had the unique opportunity to see first-hand the impact that Operation Smile is creating and to see the real need that the world has for access to safe and affordable surgical care. Once you’ve seen the important faces that you encounter on missions - you cannot continue your life like before knowing what is out there,” said Lowther
Lowther had the unique opportunity to be a “U-Voice” student ambassador. This is an Operation Smile Student Programs initiative where university students have the chance to go on a medical mission as a field reporter to capture the unique stories of patients and medical volunteers.
“As a U-voice student volunteer, I helped by getting to know the stories of patients on a deeper level from their daily struggles to how they got to the medical mission,” said Lowther. “I got to get to know the patients on a more personal level, which is not only important for telling their story, but also for being someone at the hospital on the mission that has taken the effort to get to know them personally - you become someone that the patients feel comfortable with to ask questions and most importantly to trust,” she added.
Lowther will continue her work with Operation Smile by attending the International Student Leadership Conference at Wake Forest University in July. “Operation Smile is an incredible organization to get involved with and to serve with. You can see the direct impact that they are making, and you get to be a part of that change! So, take that step and get involved,” encouraged Lowther.