Operation Smile is an international medical charity that provides free surgeries for children and young adults in developing countries who are born with cleft lip, cleft palate, or other facial deformities. In honor of National Nurses Week, Operation Smile is celebrating the nurses who volunteer on their medical missions to change the lives of thousands of children.
Founded in Virginia in 1982 by Dr. Bill and Kathy Magee, a former nurse, the organization has provided hundreds of thousands of surgeries over the years. Operation Smile has a global reach to more than 60 countries through their network of surgeons, pediatricians, doctors, nurses, and student volunteers. Their goal is to mobilize volunteer medical teams to conduct surgical missions in countries that don’t have the resources to perform these procedures themselves while adhering to high standards of safety and care.
Kathy Magee, co-founder and current president of Operation Smile, stated in a press release that, “It is heartbreaking to know how many children around the world cannot receive access to safe surgical care and have to suffer in pain because of it. Every child that has a facial deformity is our responsibility. If we don’t take care of that child, there’s no guarantee anyone else will.”
Over 600 compassionate medical and nonmedical volunteers participate in mission trips with Operation Smile each year. Karina Razo, a nurse from Los Angeles, is one of their star volunteers who says she wouldn’t trade her profession for anything. According to Razo, “Every patient rewards us with a new experience. Each and every one of them is different but the immediate results that we see, and the faces of the parents, are a gift.”
Razo, originally from Honduras, will be spending National Nurses Week caring for cleft patients on her sixth mission through Operation Smile in Lima, Peru. Speaking about what she’s learned through her volunteer nursing work with Operation Smile, Razo says:
“What has really impacted me the most throughout my time as a volunteer nurses is how extremely lucky we are to have access to safe care and safe surgery in the United States. We don’t have to worry about our children suffering when they are born with a cleft because we simply take them to the hospital. This, unfortunately, is not the case in other countries and I think we take that for granted.”
Operation Smile recently launched a campaign called Until We Heal, urging advocates from around the world to sign a pledge encouraging health leaders to address the global lack of access to safe surgery. To learn more about Operation Smile and sign their pledge, visit www.UntilWeHeal.org.
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