In September 2016 Operation Smile South Africa embarked on their latest mission in the province of Mpumalanga at the Rob Ferreira Hospital. The successful campaign saw them complete 43 surgeries between 27th of September and 1st of October.
Significantly this year marks their 10th anniversary and through their outreach program and the Miles for Smiles Initiative, which assists in creating awareness and raising funds to perform surgery on children with cleft lip and palate, three CIPLA employees embraced the opportunity to join as volunteers in Mbombela.
The volunteers were from different CIPLA offices in South Africa; Tamika Mathews (KZN), Wendy Lucas (CPT) and Annanda Kilmartin (GP) attended for 4 days to assist in screening 60 patients and provide the best possible care from start to finish.
Operation Smile is a global organization that provides free surgeries to repair cleft lips, cleft palates and other facial deformities for children and has successfully helped over 240,000 worldwide and 6,000 on the African continent.
All volunteers work for free and some have been in the programme for many years continuing to help put a smile back on a young children’s faces.
Each of the CIPLA employees attending the Mbombela mission was touched by the experience;
“The experience of OP Smile was a roller coaster ride of emotions, but mostly of emotional highs and lots of SMILES. It was a life-changing experience, heart-warming and a very positive few days. Surrounded by people that all had the same goal….wanting the best for the children.” – Tamika Mathews
“Where does one even begin? As I reflect on the days past, I am overwhelmed with the same emotions felt then. Nothing could have prepared me for what I was to experience.” – Wendy Lucas
Operation Smile ….. Where miracles happen… I didn’t know what to expect when I was chosen to attend the Operation Smile mission, I just knew that I wanted to go and make a difference.” – Annanda Kilmartin
Every 3 minutes a child is born with a cleft lip or palate somewhere in the world and aside from the social stigma attached to this facial deformity the impediment can also create difficulty with speech and some children struggle to eat and drink normally. Only 6,3% of an estimated 312,9 million surgical procedures performed each year go to the poorest third of the global population.
In 2015 alone Operation Smile provided more than 15,000 free surgeries worldwide in 29 countries. This is achieved through corporate sponsors, fund raisers and donations.