A Smile-Worthy Cause

By Olusade Oyalowo’14

Every three minutes a child is born with a cleft — often unable to eat, speak, socialize or smile (operationsmile.org). Starting this fall, students on the Hill will have the opportunity to help heal these children’s smiles through a non-profit organization called Operation Smile.

Hamilton College’s chapter of Operation Smile, started by Leah Krause ’14 and Kara Shannon ’14, will provide free surgeries to repair cleft lip, cleft palate and other facial deformities for children around the globe.  In these 45-minute surgeries, children will be given a lifetime of smiles. 

Co-founder and President of Fundraising, Shannon expressed her enthusiasm for the beginnings of this new club: “The campus- students and administrators- were very receptive to our proposal for an Op Smile club. We are excited to have so many people, right off the bat, on our team.”

The idea of creating a chapter at Hamilton started when Krause, co-founder and President of Awareness, attended Operation Smile's International Student Cultural Exchange conference with a friend in Beijing this August. She said, “When I left Beijing I really felt like I had no other choice but to start an Op Smile club at Hamilton. I guess doing nothing was no longer an option.” Krause explained how much she learned from this conference:  “It isn't just about Americans going overseas, providing the surgeries, and leaving. They really do a great job at training doctors in the country, involving local students, and energizing entire communities to help with the cause.”  Shannon was also inspired over the summer when she did research on ways to become more involved with this effort.

Luckily for Krause and Shannon, starting Operation Smile at Hamilton has been a smooth process. Krause said, “Starting a club on campus has actually been pretty simple. We've gotten a lot of positive feedback from our adviser, Associate Dean of Students for Off-Campus Study Carol Drogus, the Student Activities office, and basically everyone else we've talked to. I think that the excitement that Kara and I have for starting this club is really evident, and that's certainly made it much easier.”

Krause and Shannon have big plans for Hamilton’s Operation Smile this year.  According to Krause, “If all goes well, we will hopefully have an awesome benefit concert, a Late Nite activity second semester, screenings of movies from some of Op Smile's medical missions, a few bake sales, toothbrush drives, etc.” Shannon adds, “[We] hope that students will become involved in Operation Smile, and remain involved after time at Hamilton.”

Krause said, “To me, Operation Smile is about recognizing the dignity and value in the face of every child, and that's truly profound! They are hidden and isolated because of their condition, but here we are on the other side of the world saying, ‘I see your potential, and I want to help you smile.’”