Helping the world smile

Emma Marku and club President Marina Ghabour pour hot chocolate for students who attended the fundraiser.


            Over the last year, the Operation Smile club here at OBHS, which includes over 30 students, has raised money to pay for surgeries to help four children from all over the world. Operation Smile is a national non-profit organization that covers the cost corrective procedures for children from third world countries who were born with cleft palates which restricts them from living an ordinary life.

            A cleft palate can affect a child’s ability to breathe, eat, and speak. “It was a great cause that I wanted to be a part of, so I joined,” said senior Leiah Mendez. 

            One of the surgeries funded by the OBHS club helped a young boy named Harving. “Harving was born with a cleft lip and a cleft palate, and his mother couldn’t afford surgery,” explained senior Marina Ghabour, President of the Club. “[His family] found out about Operation Smile through missionaries, and they were hopeful.”   

            Harving’s Aunt Susana took him on a three-day journey to the medical mission center, and, with Operation Smile’s help, his surgery was successful. Harving and his aunt sent a letter and drawings thanking the club for Harving’s operation. “Our president brought in copies of the letter, gave one to each member, and everyone was so happy we were able to help him,” Makenzie McGowan shared. “It was a great opportunity for club members to directly see what our club is doing for others.”  

Nathalie Barreto-Jodlowski and Ava Dahl get their materials together and prepare to decorate their cookies.

            Following last year’s success, members of the club have set even more ambitious goals moving forward. “Our goal this year is to raise enough money to pay for eight surgeries, which is double the amount from last year!” exclaimed Ghabour 

            On January 18, the club held an emoji cookie decorating fundraiser where students received a cup of hot chocolate and two cookies to decorate as emojis. “It felt so good to know that the money I got from selling tickets went to the cause it did,” said junior Yeva Zvonar. “I’m so glad that we have events that could help benefit these specific families.”  

Having’s drawing to operation smile, of himself after surgery.

            The club is holding fundraisers throughout the year, such as bake sales and other events. “We package everything with a smiley face sticker as well as write an uplifting note to the person receiving the snack,” added Ghabour. 

            The past success has inspired the students to work even harder to make a difference. “Hearing about Harving’s story felt so great! And seeing his cute drawing and the letter for his aunt even made me tear up,” shared Mendez. “It just reminds me why I am doing all this. I am changing actual lives.” 

            For more information follow the Operation Smile on instagram

Posted on 1/30/23

Photos by Tim O’Neill

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