A recent photo taken of the executive board of the Stony Brook University club Operation Smile shows nine students grinning ear to ear. And why shouldn’t they be? Their efforts are bringing smiles to the faces of children the world over.
Operation Smile is a worldwide organization supported by students of all ages who raise funds to surgically repair cleft palates in children inhabiting Third World countries, where medical services are not available and many children born with this genetic defect would not otherwise be able to live a normal life. Cleft palate is not just a cosmetic issue; the severity of the deformity compromises eating and drinking.
Operation Smile coordinates with doctors who are willing to volunteer their services — It costs only $240 per operation to change a child’s life and prospects for happiness. That money is used to pay for the cost of supplies and procedures.
SBU Operation Smile president senior Jason Bajaj, got the idea to start a campus chapter after transferring here in his sophomore year. “I came across a few students who were looking to devote their time to something bigger than the miscellaneous activities that would occupy their time otherwise. However, we had no idea of the potential this might have,” he said.
The club employs an array of fundraising methods, mostly events, such as its upcoming talent show on April 30th. Club members also raise funds and awareness at the Spring Involvement Fair, which took place in February at the Student Activities Center, an event that also provides the club with an opportunity to gather hundreds of names to its ever-growing mailing list. Smaller events, such as casino nights, are used to raise awareness about the club’s mission.
The club had its best year so far in 2013, when it raised $1,600, which was then matched by the collegiate national chapter. “Big companies such as Microsoft will chip in 12 times that amount, for example, so that the latest total amount raised locally was $19,860 over two years’ time,” said Bajaj.
Bajaj breaks down the cost per student that would make a significant difference. “If 23,000 SBU students gave $5 a semester each for a $240 operation, 460 lives could be ‘saved’.”
— Glenn Jochum