Naga to host Operation Smile’s 30th year homecoming mission
Volunteers from at least 30 countries will be coming to various points of the Philippines to pay homage to Operation Smile’s country of birth by conducting simultaneous homecoming missionst hat will mobilize 1,000 medical volunteers who will provide free cleft surgeries and dental treatments to almost 5,000 Filipino children with facial
The grand event is in celebration of Operation Smile’s 30th anniversary in November through December this year, aptly dubbed “The Journey Home.”
Incidentally, the focal point of this global celebration is this city – Naga in the heart of Bicolandia – the place where the very first Operation Smile medical mission took place 30 years ago.
Last Friday, August 3, at the Avenue Plaza Convention Center here, Naga City Mayor John G. Bongat and Roberto J. Manzano, president and executive director of Operation Smile led the formal launch of the 30th anniversary celebration with the signing of a memorandum of agreement that will kick off preparations for “the journey home.”
According to Manzano, Operation Smile will conduct this year 10 simultaneous international medical missions to give the gift of smile to at least 4,500 Filipino children and young adults over the course of three weeks in various parts of the country.
He said “The Journey Home” medical missions will begin on October 25-30 in Koronadal, South Cotabato. This will be followed by two waves of international surgical missions across four simultaneous sites: from Nov. 8-18 in Naga City in Bicol, Angeles City in Pampanga, Silay City in the Visayas, and Cagayan de Oro City in Northern Mindanao; and from Nov. 22-Dec 2 in Dasmarinas, Cavite, Manila, Cebu City, and General Santos City.
The Operation Smile team will be composed of plastic surgeons, anesthesiologists, pediatric intensivists, pediatricians, dentists, operating room nurses, recovery room nurses, pre- and post-operative nurses, speech pathologists, biomedical technicians, patient imaging technician, electronic medical records/medical records officer/documentor/mission photographer, and a mission coordinator.
Dr. Rodolfo ‘Ronnie’ Ursua of the Biciol Medical Center and City Health Officer Dr. Vito ‘Butch’ Borja have been designated medical mission site coordinators, while Ms. Rica Buenaflor has been named chairperson of the 30th anniversary Naga organizing committee.
In his welcome speech, Mayor Bongat said the city government, supported by various departments at city hall and the local community, through the City Health Office and the Metro Naga Development Council, will assist Operation Smile’s Journey Home through various tasks and responsibilities to ensure the event’s success and smooth flow of activities. These include patient mapping, patient’s pre-screening laboratory works, patient transportation and meal assistance, volunteer transportation support, and mobilization and security, among others.
Where it began
The first Operation Smile was conducted in 1982 at the Bicol Medical Center here (then known as Camarines Sur Provincial Hospital) during the term of then Gov. Felix Fuentebella when Dr. William “Bill” Magee and wife Kathy arrived in the country for a one-time medical mission in this city. Around 300 families went to the hospital hoping to receive free reconstructive surgery for their children. However, the Magees, with a handful of volunteers, were only able to provide surgery for 40 children on that day.
“I remember a mother giving me a bunch of bananas as a thank you, even though we weren’t able to accommodate them,” Bill was quoted as saying. It was this vivid memory of a mother’s gratitude – even if help was not extended to her child – that tugged at the hearts of the Magee couple. They refused to look away from those children who so desperately needed help. That passion and drive led to the founding of Operation Smile. From thereon, Operation Smile returned to the Philippines for the next 29 years and continues to live on to transform lives and bring smiles across the archipelago.
There is now an effort to look for that woman and her child (who may have grown up by now) so they could join the homecoming celebration.
It takes as little as 45 minutes (or approximately P15,000 if charged by a hospital) for a single surgery to create a smile and change someone’s life forever. Operation Smile is a private, non-profit international children’s medical charity that provides free reconstructive surgery and related healthcare to children and young adults suffering from facial deformities, such as cleft lip and cleft palate.
Following is this year’s schedule of activities for the Operation Smile (OS) anniversary and symbolic homecoming surgical mission in Naga City:
July to October, region wide (Bicol) mapping and registration of candidate patients;
Nov. 2-8, local pre-screening and laboratory works of patients at BMC and municipal and district hospitals;
Nov. 5-8, expected arrival of OS medical equipment, supplies and medicines;
Nov. 8, physical set-up for final screening of patients;
Nov. 9, OS team arrival in Naga City;
Nov. 10, final screening of patients, release of list of those who qualify for surgery, and surgery schedule;
Nov. 11, hospital set-up for admission and surgery, initial admission of patients;
Nov. 12, first day of surgery; Nov. 16, last day of surgery, pack-up of supplies and equipment;
Nov. 17, last discharge of patients, OS team departure;
Nov. 24, one week post op consultation; May 2013, for the sixth-month post op.
In agreeing to host the memorable event, Mayor Bongat said that Naga City welcomes the services and the exchange of knowledge and technology that may be gained through various activities such as the international cleft surgical mission to be conducted by the Operation Smile with its team of international experts in the field of cleft health care.
Manzano disclosed that some 500 high-profile Philippine and international guests from business, government, arts, and the media will be present during the gala event on Nov. 10. A memorable ‘Thanksgiving Day’ with some 1,000 local and international attendees has also been set for Nov. 30.
Also present during the MOA signing were Deputy Speaker Arnulfo Fuentebella and Rep. Luis R. Villafuerte of Camarines Sur’s 4th and 3rd districts, respectively.