Coalition Member Spotlight: Operation Smile

The first recipient of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize in 1996, Operation Smile is an organization that truly exemplifies the spirit of the Hilton Prize Coalition. Operation Smile describes itself as an “international medical charity dedicated to improving the health and lives of children worldwide through access to surgical care.” Since its founding in 1982, Operation Smile has provided hundreds of thousands of free surgeries for children in developing countries who were born with cleft lip, cleft palate or other facial deformities. Through its reach across more than 60 countries, the organization has developed expertise in mobilizing volunteer medical teams to conduct surgical missions in resource-poor environments while adhering to the highest standards of care and safety, filling the gaps in access by partnering with hospitals, governments and ministries of health, training local medical personnel, and donating much-needed supplies and equipment to surgical sites around the world.

One of these partnerships come into particular focus through the Hilton Prize Coalition Storytelling Program in Nepal. Through a collaborative documentary, the Storytelling program showcases the work of six Coalition members that mobilized in response to the 2015 Nepal earthquake and aftershocks. In the photo below, Master Storyteller Steve Connors speaks with Dr. Shankar Rai of Operation Smile. Dr. Rai works at the Nepal Cleft and Burn Center within Kirtipur Hospital, outside of Kathmandu. Connors recounted from his interview with Dr. Rai that “the hospital wasn’t damaged in the earthquake but was extremely busy in the first few days afterwards, treating hundreds of earthquake victims.” Stories like this, of the way development organizations expanded their roles to integrate disaster response, are highlighted in the film. The other five Coalition members featured in the film are BRAC, Handicap International, Heifer International, HelpAge International and SOS Children’s Villages.

Nepal_020416_Meeting with Dr. Shankar Rai of Operation Smile at Kirtipur Hospital

(Photo taken by Rasmi Dangol of HelpAge International Nepal)

In addition to its participation in the Storytelling program, Operation Smile remains committed to the goals of the Coalition through its involvement in the Hilton Prize Coalition Fellows Program. This summer, Operation Smile will host a Fellow who will support its Office of the Co-Founders with fundraising/development, strategic planning projects, board leadership and research. Additionally, the Fellow will have the opportunity to travel on an international medical mission and gain first-hand experience of the organization’s global operations. In the fall, a Hilton Prize Coalition Collaborative Fellow will work alongside both Operation Smile and Coalition member Tostan in Senegal, focusing on social reintegration programs for women who have suffered from obstetric fistula.

Operation Smile’s work on behalf of children truly exemplifies the spirit of the Hilton Prize Coalition. Their commitment to Coalition programs will benefit collective impact efforts to empower communities and alleviate human suffering around the world for years to come.

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