Saturday, April 09, 2011

Operation Smile in Fez - a good news story

It is often the case that good news gets buried. Wars, earthquakes and protests make for sensational TV and newspaper coverage. However, our report today concerns a wonderful story of compassion and generosity that will change the lives of many. We are very happy to report such a story, the story of Operation Smile and their work at the Omar Drissi Hospital in Fez.

Operation Smile is a charity organization healing children's smiles, making the world a better place. But Operation Smile is more than a charity organization, more than an NGO. They are a mobilized force of medical professionals and caring hearts who provide safe, effective reconstructive surgery for children born with facial deformities such as cleft lip and cleft palate.

More than 200,000 children are born with a severe cleft condition each year — often unable to eat, speak, socialize or smile. In some places these children are shunned and rejected. And in too many cases, their parents can't afford to give them the surgery they need to live a normal life.

Since 1982, Operation Smile — through the help of dedicated medical volunteers — has provided free surgery to children around the world. As one of the most prominent children’s charities in the world and with a presence in over 60 countries, they are able to heal children’s smiles and bring hope for a better future.


A large team arrived in Fez on March 31. It comprised essentially equal numbers of local and international members intent on working together and learning from each other. Screening of potential patients began early the next day. However one team member, Ben Rodriguez, had previously travelled around Morocco and identified a number of possible patients. In the first two days a total of 253 children were screened.

One of the volunteers, Australian Fleur Childs, describes the scene: "When we got the hospital there were already many families anxiously waiting for the Operation Smile to arrive. All of them hoping that we can help them. All of us hoping that we can help all of them. We hope this, though we know that the reality is that there are always some children left behind.

Outside of the hospital gates a calm, melancholy father and son wait in the shade. Khalid is 11 years old and has been living his entire childhood with a cleft lip.

Late in the day, just as the sun was becoming unbearably hot, it was finally Khalid's turn to go through the screening process.

Once inside the cool hospital, a smile spread across his face as the doctors assured him that they could truly help fix his cleft lip.

His father was so happy tears formed in his eyes. Tears of joy that his son might be able to one day live a life of dignity and opportunity free of shame and desperation.

11 year old Khalid - all smiles

The Operation Smile team worked through until yesterday and completed a large number of operations. For the families of the children who had surgery it was both an anxious and a happy time. Working across cultural divides is never easy, but the outcomes in this case often lead to growing understanding of each others' cultures.

Fleur Childs - "Yahya's mother told me about how hard it has been to deal with having her son born with a cleft lip. When I asked her if she had any idea why her son was born like this she told me about a common belief in Morocco.

“When a woman is pregnant she must be very careful not to look at certain things or animals. When you are pregnant and a woman looks at a rabbit or a camel then it is very bad as their unborn child will develop features just like that animal. Also if she sees a child or adult with a facial deformity then she must look away instantly or the curse is passed onto her baby.”

Every culture has different superstitions about clefts, but sadly many people who are uneducated take these superstitions very seriously and then take on a lifetime of personal guilt.

His mother fears for him every day, which leads to him not being permitted to play outside, have no friends and be shunned by the world. She says she cries constantly at the thought of his un-lived life.

She says that if God chooses him to be better and receive the surgery on Friday, it will be like a dream come true."

All photos by Veronica Dana, Volunteer Photographer

If you would like to assist the work of Operation Smile, then please follow this link. DONATE

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Smile Train is all about outcomes I was just on the smile train website making a donation in honor of Mother's Day and noticed the new videos and inspirational...if you have time, make it your next stop.