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Pedro, today. Photo: Camilo Zapata Fonnegra.

Transcending Borders

Transcending Borders

Through the Transcending Borders initiative, we seek to elevate medical care and health systems to help patients with cleft conditions regardless of their immigration statuses.

Operation Smile is committed to creating brighter futures for people with cleft conditions of all backgrounds and countries of origin. Our Transcending Borders initiative recognizes inequalities in health care and aims to create more resilient and inclusive health systems that serve the needs of vulnerable people.  

In 2022, more than 100 million people were displaced worldwide due to violence, conflict or human rights violations. These families can often 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 promote the health and well-being of people in search of better lives.


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Pedro's Story

Meet Pedro

When Pedro and his family arrived at the April Third refugee camp in 2019, more than 1 million displaced Venezuelans were also seeking shelter in Colombia. But unlike other children at the camp, Pedro was born with a cleft lip and palate.

As part of the Transcending Borders initiative, we: 

1. Provide cleft surgery and comprehensive care programs. We continue to deliver programs to children and families from all backgrounds and countries of origin. 

2. Strengthen health systems. Our capacity-building programs create more resilient and inclusive health systems to serve the needs of all people. 

3. Pursue partnerships and advocacy. We coordinate efforts on the ground with community leaders and lean on expertise of partner organizations to decrease barriers to care. 

Operation Smile photo.

Crossing Borders for Care

Local Operation Smile Egypt volunteers and staff welcomed nearly 30 patients from Libya who were born with cleft lip and cleft palate. This was no small feat, as Libya is still in the process of recovering from a decade of suffering and instability.

Our Transcending Borders initiative is one of the key pillars of our Next Decade strategy, in which Operation Smile has committed to increasing access to care for 1 million patients in need of cleft care and other essential surgeries. This commitment is born from the needs Operation Smile has identified during its 40 years of work in low- and middle-income countries. 

"The child born 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," said Dr. Bill Magee, co-founder of Operation Smile. 

Learn more about our Next Decade of Love and Leadership

Make Your Gift


Every three minutes, a child is born with a cleft condition. Your gift today will help transform lives and increase access to essential surgical care.