Cheiloschisis, or cleft lip, is a crippling facial deformity that may lead to its victims’ deaths. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, about 36 of every 1000 victims of cleft lip die “…due to associated [birth] anomalies and infection.” Not only is this condition lethal, it is also quite common. Approximately one out of every 500 children are born with this anomaly– that equates to about one victim every three minutes. In addition, cleft lips make life extremely difficult for its victim. They impede speech development and eating, while potentially causing ear and dental issues. However, this condition is easily curable. A simple process of plastic surgery on a 3 month old infant can fully repair the deformity. Due to this fact, cleft lip is almost a non-issue in first world countries — however, cleft lip is still a major issue for developing nations, where families cannot afford the 25,000 yen cost. While it has been confirmed that cleft lip is a genetic, the exact cause of cheiloschisis is yet unknown. Cleft lip is an unfortunate condition that claims the lives of many innocent children.
Operation Smile is a nonprofit organization that aims to combat this misfortune. Founded in 1982 by Dr. William Magee in the Philippines, the group has successfully aided children who are born with cleft lip for over 30 years — as of now, Operation Smile’s 5000 medical volunteers have provided more than 200,000 free surgeries for children suffering with cheiloschisis. The group’s activities focus around providing funds for underprivileged children to receive operations and raising awareness about the condition. The organization is very successful in these aspects. The St. Mary’s division alone raised about 500,000 yen for their cause over the course of the past year — that’s 25 lives they saved from potential death. In the past, the club has made efforts to increase exposure of this disease by making presentations at various classes at school. According to Shubhankar, the President of the club, raising awareness is important because it “…causes people to pay attention…[to the condition], and this eventually leads to people donating money.” By engaging in various fund and awareness raising activities, Operation Smile saves both the life and livelihood of children bearing the misfortune of cleft lips.
At St. Mary’s, President Shubhankar Peshin and Vice President Stephan Nitu have a lot of plans for Operation Smile this year. In addition to bake sales, toy sales and other fund-raising campaigns, Operation Smile will be incorporating methods of raising awareness into their various activities. Students should expect to see their symbol, the smiley face, in various locations throughout and outside the school, as Operation Smile plans to be active at venues in and out of campus. Operation Smile is willing to accept new club members. If you wish to make a change for the better for underprivileged children, you are encouraged to contact members of Operation Smile..