Operation Smile MSU to fundraise for children with facial deformities
Operation Smile MSU has been reactivated on MSU’s campus and members are trying to make a difference by bringing more smiles into the world.
President of the MSU organization, neuroscience sophomore Shravani Vatti, said the club is trying to help fund the international children’s charity Operation Smile, which targets children born with facial deformities such as cleft lip and palate to provide them with surgery to rectify the problem.
“By having this, it’s probably not a simple surgery, but having this surgery for these young children can be a major life changer for these children and improve their future tremendously,” Operation Smile MSU’s adviser Richard Harlow said.
Harlow is an instructor for an integrative studies and social sciences course that discusses global diversity and interacting with people of other cultures. Differences between people and cultures might just be differences and have neither a positive nor negative connotation. Two of the students in the course, Vatti and accounting sophomore Jinyun Guo, took the lessons to heart, Harlow said.
Vatti and Guo decided to reactivate the club for a couple reasons. The idea initially came to Vatti from a friend who had a similar club at another school. She then brought it up to Guo, who had also heard about the Operation Smile organization from a Stryker class guest speaker. Stryker helps support Operation Smile, Guo said.
After hearing about it from both Vatti and from the guest speaker, Guo said she felt motivated to help reactivate the organization, as she likes fundraising and wants to get more involved on MSU’s campus. As the treasurer of Operation Smile MSU, Guo said she wants to bring more awareness to MSU’s campus.
“There’s not many people (who) know about Operation Smile,” she said. “There’s not many people in MSU who knows about cleft mouth, like in a small kind of country. And we kind of want to increase campus awareness of that and help people realize what’s going on in the world and to think it’s our duty to give back to the community no matter what major you are or gender you are, what race you are.”
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center website, a cleft lip occurs when the lip does not completely form during fetal development while a cleft palate occurs when the roof of the mouth does not completely close, which can leave an opening that can expose the nasal cavity. The website states that the cause of these facial developments are unclear, but could be a mix of environmental and genetic factors.
According to the Operation Smile website, a child is born with a cleft lip or cleft palate every three minutes and may suffer from torments, difficulty with speech and malnourishment. One of the stories on the website tells the story of Marceline, who was called names and spit on for her cleft lip. She ultimately dropped out of school to avoid persecution until she was able to get plastic surgery the website stated.
A surgery to help prevent events like those from unfolding can cost $240, Vatti said. Once fundraising for the club gets underway, she’s hoping with each fundraiser to be able to provide enough money for three operations. She also said the club would create smile bags, which are care packages for kids undergoing the surgery that consist of shampoo, comb, toothpaste, coloring books and crayons.
Harlow, who had an experience helping others in the past when he sponsored a refugee family from Laos, said he felt positively about the club from the beginning. He said when people make a significant change in someone’s life, it helps not only that person but also can change their life as well.
Operation Smile MSU has five definite members and five potential members right now. Meetings are at 7:30 p.m. every Thursday in Shaw Hall, Vatti said.