Operation Smile’s life-changing cleft lip and cleft palate surgeries are made possible by medical volunteers uniting from all walks of life who donate their time and compassion to those in dire need.

Serving those in need

One of those people is California-based nurse Christine Loeffler, who logged her 11th international medical mission this July in Mozambique.

“I’ve always felt a strong need to serve those who are underserved,” Loeffler says. “In Mozambique, we were told by the ministry of health that there were only two surgeons in the entire country who were dedicated to cleft repairs. And there are just too many babies out there born with cleft conditions.”

“Opportunity is rare. Help is rare. Love and kindness are becoming rare.”

Those babies’ lives hang in the balance. According to the journal Frontiers of Oral Biology, without surgery, 9 out of 10 children born with cleft conditions could die before their 20th birthdays.

Surgical missions are only part of the solution.

“I’ve had the privilege of helping to teach local nurses pre- and post-operative care,” Loeffler says. “Once they individually develop the skills and confidence, the in-country teams will be able to sustain cleft surgeries.”

A lasting impact

When asked what she would say to someone who’s considering becoming an Operation Smile supporter, Loeffler says that the impact of a surgery is immense.

“I’ll never forget a moment in Malawi when we had a room full of pre-op patients suddenly interrupt the space with joyful song, dance and laughter. Later, I asked one of the local nurses what they were singing. They sang, ‘We are happy when things like this happen, because it is rare when they happen.’

“Things like this really are rare,” Loeffler continues. “Opportunity is rare. Help is rare. Love and kindness are becoming rare. When you support Operation Smile, you have the chance to give something tangibly meaningful and rare to this world.”