Meet Marceline. Marceline was born in Rwanda with a cleft palette that left her mother fearing for her daughter’s future and Marceline herself feeling ostracised by those in her village, too anxious to leave her home knowing the physical and emotional abuse she would face. She lived as an outcast. Today it’s a dramatically different story for Marceline. Her next chapter was re-written when her family learned about the work Operation Smile do to provide free cleft lip and cleft palette surgeries for children in more than 40 low- to middle-income countries around the world.
Every three minutes, a child just like Marceline is born with a cleft lip or cleft palate. They may go on to suffer from malnourishment, speech impediments, and social stigma — even from within their own families. Yet this situation can be easily resolved with access to a brief surgical procedure that can take as little as 45 minutes and costs around $240.
That’s where Operation Smile comes in. The international medical charity has provided hundreds of thousands of free surgeries for children and young adults in developing countries who are born with cleft lip, cleft palate or other facial deformities. With access to simple surgical procedures a challenge in many developing countries and parts of the developed world, Operation Smile dreams of a world where no child suffers from lack of access to safe surgery — they believe every patient deserves exceptional surgical care regardless of where they’re born or how much money their family makes1.
Operation Smile, founded in 1982, unites like-minded advocates and global health and world leaders to advance access to safe surgery for all people with cleft conditions. Working together, they create platforms for activism, awareness-building, government engagement and the establishment of medical programs to create long-term solutions.
For the past 31 years, Johnson & Johnson has partnered with Operation Smile to provide more than 100,000 smiles to children living with cleft conditions worldwide. All this is through the work of its employees who contribute to bringing safe, effective and well-timed surgeries to the most vulnerable in our world, coupled with product and financial support.
This partnership — which started in 1988 with a donation of a box of surgical sutures from the boot of a sales rep’s car — has led to more than 40,000 Johnson & Johnson employees supporting this amazing cause, with many having volunteered for medical missions around the world. During these emotional journeys, Johnson & Johnson — now the exclusive provider of every suture used in Operation Smile missions — has witnessed first-hand the life-changing power of healing smiles.
And this commitment continues. To celebrate the company’s responsibility towards its 2015 pledge of a continued five-year, $25 million commitment to working alongside Operation Smile, Johnson & Johnson has designated this week in May as Smile Week for all its employees. For five days, the combined force of Johnson & Johnson’s global employees is mobilised and encouraged to participate in grassroots awareness, advocacy and fundraising activities — all with the end goal of advancing the conversation around surgery access to children just like Marceline.
Change a smile, change a life.