The following content is created in consultation with Operation Smile. It does not reflect the work or opinions of NBC Chicago's editorial staff. To learn more about Operation Smile, visit www.operationsmile.org.
Did you know that every three minutes a child is born with a facial deformity like a cleft lip or a cleft palate?
Even more staggering is the fact that without proper surgery, these children are unable to eat, speak, socialize or even smile. And nowhere does this problem go untreated more than in developing countries.
Unfortunately, this was the sad reality of Eugenie, a 14 year old girl living in Rwanda. Born with a cleft lip that made speaking and eating difficult, Eugenie was called worthless by her peers simply because of the way she looked. Orphaned at a young age after both her parents died, she was forced to live on the streets as an outcast.
Eugenie's story is not unlike that of so many other children born with a facial deformity. She lived a miserable life until the generosity of strangers changed her future forever. Eugenie was taken in by a woman in her community who heard that Operation Smile, a worldwide children's medical charity, was bringing a medical team to Rwanda to perform free operations.
Since its inception in 1982--when Dr. Bill Magee and wife Kathy Magee first lead a group of medical volunteers to repair cleft lips and palates in the Philippines--Operation Smile has performed over 220,000 free surgeries for children and young adults in more than 60 countries, helping to transform patients' lives for the better. Operation Smile would not exist without the generosity of donors worldwide--here’s how you can help.
Eugenie travelled 12 hours by bus and foot to the medical mission site to be screened for the surgery. At 14 years old, this was the first time she'd seen a doctor. At first, her chances at surgery seemed dire. She had a fever and was not in healthy enough condition to receive safe surgery. But after a week on antibiotics and continuous care, the doctors said she was now ready.
After enduring a lifetime of poor health and torment, Euginie’s successful surgery took less than an hour to transform her life. Thanks to a team of medical professionals--all of whom volunteered their time--and generous donations from people like you, Operation Smile helped give Eugenie a future that is now full of hope and optimism.
An Operation Smile surgery takes as little as 45 minutes and costs as little as $240. In only a few moments, a child's life is transformed. Tragically, most of the 220,000 children worldwide who are born with a cleft lip or cleft palate each year can never afford the surgery they need.
Operation Smile combats those grim figures with a network of more than 5,400 credentialed medical volunteers from 76 countries, all of whom apply global standards of safety and hygiene to their procedures.
But, most importantly, Operation Smile and these children in need depend on you, so please consider donating now.