VIRGINIA BEACH, Va., April 7, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, World Health Day, marks the launch of an unprecedented youth-driven campaign to advocate for a healthcare issue which few people in the U.S. recognize, the global need for access to safe surgery. Led by Operation Smile student volunteers, UNTIL WE HEAL is the first-of-its-kind campaign to inspire and engage young people to advocate for other children who do not have access to safe surgical care that could save their lives.
To kick off UNTIL WE HEAL with 10 days of action and advocacy (April 7-16), Operation Smile student volunteers from middle school to college are hosting events, fundraisers and taking to social media to generate greater awareness about the global health issue of safe surgery. According to a 2015 report, five billion people worldwide lack access to safe, effective surgery. The lack of access results in more deaths than HIV, tuberculosis and malaria combined, but it receives far less attention and funding.
"A couple of years ago I was hospitalized for a week and that experience made me realize how lucky I was to get care when I needed it," said 17-year-old Olivia Waaben from Lawrenceville, New Jersey. "Through Operation Smile, I have learned that surgeries, like operations to fix a cleft, are not available for billions of people and I felt motivated to do something." Olivia and Sklyer Troast, both juniors from different high schools in New Jersey, are joining forces to organize a statewide UNTIL WE HEAL Day, t-shirt sales, a golf tournament and other events across the state to support the effort.
Most importantly, the campaign is inspiring young people of all ages to help their peers in other countries who are less fortunate by speaking out on their behalf. "I've gone through many surgeries for my cleft lip and cleft palate, and I know what it's like to be different," said 8-year-old John Proctor, from Virginia Beach. "I support Operation Smile and UNTIL WE HEAL because I don't want other children, like me, to suffer from bullying or not being able to talk or eat properly, because they can't get an operation too."
Anyone can participate in UNTIL WE HEAL by sharing information or facts about the issue using #UntilWeHeal; engaging in conversation online about the need for global access to safe surgery; organizing an UNTIL WE HEAL event to help educate local communities; or donating to the cause through Operation Smile. For a complete list of ways to get involved, visit the UNTIL WE HEAL Act Now guide here.
"Operation Smile believes that safe surgical care is a universal human right, and we are doing our part to address the problem by providing safe and effective cleft lip and cleft palate surgeries around the world, training doctors and providing medical equipment and resources," said Kathy Magee, Co-Founder and President of Operation Smile. "I am so proud of our young volunteers and student clubs who are taking up the charge to advocate for safe surgery until we heal every child, because there is so much more to be done in all areas of need."
Operation Smile is an international medical charity that 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. It is one of the oldest and largest volunteer-based organizations dedicated to improving the health and lives of children worldwide through access to surgical care. Since 1982, Operation Smile 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. Operation Smile helps to fill the gap in providing access to safe, well-timed surgeries 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. Founded and based in Virginia, U.S., Operation Smile has extended its global reach to more than 60 countries through its network of credentialed surgeons, pediatricians, doctors, nurses, and student volunteers. For more information, visit www.operationsmile.org.
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SOURCE Operation Smile