Making a Difference, One Smile at a Time


Operation Smile raises money and awareness for children in third-world countries with facial deformities. (IAN SOKOLOWSKI/THE OBSERVER)


Operation Smile, endearingly dubbed “Op Smile” by its members, aims to raise money and awareness for children in third world countries with cleft lips and other facial deformities. All of the money raised by Op Smile helps fund surgeries for children.

“Our goals are, of course, to raise as much money as possible to be able to help countless amounts of kids receive their surgeries. As important as the money is to our cause, raising awareness is just as important to our mission,” Michaela Browner, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’19 and secretary of Op Smile, said. “There are many ways to help the organization besides just donating, such as volunteer trips, so raising awareness for the kids is extremely impactful.”

The club’s largest event of the semester, “Songs for Smiles,” will take place Thursday, Nov. 17 in G76. The purpose of this event is to raise awareness and collect donations. Attendees can enter raffles, win prizes, watch student performances and decorate T-shirts. “The shirts you decorate are sent to the kids who have surgeries to wear in the hospital when they are getting their surgery done,” Browner said.

“We love ‘Songs for Smiles’ because not only is it fun, but it’s a chance for us to raise a lot of money and awareness for a great cause,” Browner said.

“Songs for Smiles” is also what Maria Estelle, FCLC ‘17, is most proud of throughout her three years with the club.  “Each surgery is $250,” Estelle said, “so, honestly, every time we have Songs for Smiles, we get at least one or two surgeries.” The majority of the donations that Operation Smile receives are through ticketed events like this one.

Operation Smile has hosted various events in the past, including movie nights, game nights and Bingo nights.

Operation Smile offers a host of roles to those who would like to join.  Since many of Op Smile’s E-Board members are seniors, there will be new opportunities for leadership roles within the club next year.  Members may be involved as little or as much as they choose, from attending weekly meetings to helping plan events. Not only do members of the club do work at Fordham, but they are also able to volunteer off-campus, according to Estelle.

What is the future of Operation Smile at Fordham? Estelle described a number of directions the club could take. “There are college programs,” Estelle explained, “there is one called U-Voice where we are planning on maybe trying to get some people to get [student] funding to be able to go on missions.” Estelle elaborated that volunteers have the opportunity to travel internationally, interact with the patients they are helping and scrub in on surgeries. As Operation Smile is an international organization, the possibilities to volunteer and donate differ from any other club at Fordham College at Lincoln Center. 

“People should join Operation Smile because not only is it a fun, event-filled club, but we represent a mission and a cause that is engaging with the world around us,” Browner said. “When you join Operation Smile, you are bringing a child who may not have access to safe, effective surgery one step closer to a new and improved health.”

Operation Smile meets every Friday at 12:30 p.m. in room G73, next to Argo Tea.