Operation Smile

How UAE residents are helping children across the globe

Area Guides, Community
Area Guides, Community

One Abu Dhabi-based organisation is on a mission to help children around the world with cleft palate and lip conditions – and now it has started a faction for students to get involved too.

Operation Smile was founded in January 2011 and has aided various international efforts and missions, all with one sole purpose: to help children with facial deformities. And the organisation is now reaching out to various communities in order to gain even more support. Most recently, this has involved the launch of a Student Network to engage young adults aged 13-25 to get involved.

The Operation Smile office is run by mother and daughter duo Morag and Kyla Cromey-Hawke. While Morag is the managing director, Kyla has taken the reigns of the Student Network.

‘The Student Network is a platform for students to develop leadership skills, participate in fundraising and get involved in the community,’ says Kyla. The purpose is to get young people interested in Operation Smile’s efforts early, including fundraising and campaigning. ‘It’s the first of its kind. Operation Smile’s headquarters has a student council, but our Student Network is a little bit more than that,’ Kyla explains.

The students will organise presentations in their own and other schools so kids can learn about the organisation and what it does, as well as helping expand the network and launch fundraising initiatives. The ultimate goal, Kyla says, is, ‘to raise funds, spread awareness of cleft conditions while building acceptance and understanding, and dispelling stigmas, while building philanthropy within the UAE’, adding that the programme launched in October.

The network came about from a consolidation of student volunteers, who wanted to help but didn’t really know where to begin. The network also allows for Community Action Service (CAS) hours to be logged for schooling – though, Kyla warns, it’s not for the faint-hearted. ‘We do offer CAS hour documentation but an amount of dedication is required; it’s not an organisation for writing off numbers.’ The network will operate with a 20-person management team, with more students expected to join and help. ‘This is something students will need to be dedicated to and in return, it’s an opportunity for them to gain experience and knowledge and learn skills,’ Kyla explains.

The students have so far worked to form the network and are in the process of completing their constitution. Ultimately, it will be overseen by an Operation Smile representative – in this case, Kyla.

The current challenges are getting the structure up and running; they hope to eventually have a student network in each emirate. ‘We want to expand but, of course, students from other emirates are welcome at the Abu Dhabi network.’ Operation Smile encourages students to participate and get involved, to benefit both the community and themselves.
The Operation Smile Student Network meets monthly. Contact Kyla at volunteer@operationsmileuae.ae. www.operationsmile.org (02 658 4790).

Get involved
Operation Smile isn’t just for students, it has volunteer options available in the Student Network for advisors and various roles within the organisation, too. The charity is always looking for more hands at fundraisers, such as the Sheraton Flea Market in Abu Dhabi and various other events. There are ways you can help, from administrative office work to marketing campaigns. Contact the Operation Smile team to find out how you can do your bit.

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