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PostPosted: Wed Nov 07, 2007 10:14 am 
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Special Features (as of 2:04 AM)

US mission to bring smiles, hope to 500 RP kids


The Philippine Star

Believing that the gift of surgery will change the lives of children with facial deformities, a United States-based organization Tuesday launched a 25-country medical mission to treat children with cleft lip.

On its 25th anniversary, Operation Smile will conduct simultaneous medical missions, dubbed "World Journey of Smiles," in 40 sites in 25 countries starting Wednesday (Nov. 7) until Nov. 16.

The activity aims to treat more than 5,000 children worldwide for free.

Dr. William Magee, a plastic surgeon, founded Operation Smile in 1982 after conducting a medical mission in Naga City with wife Kathy, a former nurse and clinical social worker.

"The World Journey of Smiles is our anniversary gift to children around the world and will be the largest surgical mission ever conducted," Magee said in a press conference at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila in Pasay City.

The organization has helped more than 100,000 children all over the world in the past 25 years.

"When we began this effort 25 years ago, we hoped to fulfill our promise to the hundreds of children in the Philippines whom we were not able to treat on that first mission," he said. "With the World Journey of Smiles, our goal is to bring smiles and hope to children around the world."

In the Philippines, around 165 volunteers that include plastic surgeons, anesthesiologists, pediatricians, dentists, nurses, speech pathologists and child life specialists will participate in the week-long medical missions to be held in the cities of Davao, Naga and Makati.

The medical mission aims to treat 500 Filipino children with cleft lips, cleft palates and other facial deformities.

This will add to more than 20,000 children who have benefited from the Operation Smile Philippines’ missions in some 35 cities and municipalities since 1982.

Aside from providing free surgery, Operation Smile also trains medical professionals in its 25 partner countries and donates equipment to lay the groundwork for long-term sufficiency.

"An effort of this magnitude is possible only through the long-term partnerships we have created and through the commitment of more than 5,000 medical and non-medical volunteers worldwide," said Kathy Magee, president and co-founder of Operation Smile.

The organization said the impact of facial deformity on a child is more than skin deep. Cleft children are often ridiculed because of their deformity, and often stop going to school. Most will grow up with neither the social nor the work skills to find gainful employment.

In the Philippines, one in every 500 babies are born each year with a cleft lip, a cleft palate or both, according to the Department of Health. This translates roughly to 4,004 Filipinos out of 2.064 million born every year with this deformity.

The DOH said that cleft lips and palates are among the top 12 birth defects in the country.

"The congenital deformity could have been corrected easily but the cost of the procedure remains prohibitive, especially among low-income groups where the condition is most prevalent," the organization said.

Reconstructive surgery costs anywhere from P60,000 to P100,000, depending on the severity of the deformity, it added.

"Through the establishment of seven Comprehensive Care Centers in key regions worldwide, and by sharing the training, equipment and expertise needed to ensure that the mission continues long after we return home, our goal is to make sure that every child who needs this life-altering treatment has access to it," Magee said.

Someday in the distant future, scientists will score a breakthrough and replicate the amazingly powerful adhesive with which Gloria Arroyo has managed to cling to power.


US mission to bring smiles, hope to 500 RP kids



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