New Bethel club gives children a reason to smile

April 29, 2014 | 11 a.m.

Bethel’s Operation Smile in its developmental stages, not short of ideas for growth 

Culture | Patnacia Goodman

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Sophomore biokinetics major Jesse Barnes discovered Operation Smile while doing research for his family after his cousin was born with cleft lip. | Photo for The Clarion by Kristine Schmidt

Smiling is something we do without much thought. We smile at friends while studying in the Grill or at strangers while walking through the halls. We smile at the weather and when we get letters in our P.O. boxes. 

But what if you were born unable to smile or eat without difficulty? There are millions of children living without that ability because of cleft lip and cleft palate. 

Cleft lip is a separation where the lip does not completely form, and cleft palate happens when the palates do not close, leaving a gap in the roof of the mouth. 

According to the Operation Smile website, 1 in every 500 children around the world is born with cleft lip or palate, and of those, 1 in 10 die before their first birthday. Aside from difficulty with eating, cleft lip and palate can lead to speech issues if left untreated.

“The crazy thing is, the surgery only costs $240, and it’s a 45-90 minute procedure,” sophomore Jesse Barnes said. 

About two months ago, Barnes stumbled on Operation Smile through research after his cousin was born with cleft lip. 

Operation Smile is an organization that raises money for children overseas that are born with cleft lip and palate. Money is raised through various fundraisers to send surgeons and equipment all over the world to perform surgeries free of charge for families who have children with cleft lip and palate. 

“I’m a pre-dental student, so I thought it was a great opportunity to get involved with an organization with the same goals of service that I have,” Barnes said. 

After learning that there isn’t a chapter of Operation Smile in Minnesota, Barnes found an opportunity to start one at Bethel. 

“I thought we could start a club here and eventually become a chapter,” he said. “A chapter requires a lot more commitment and money to come in, and you have to raise $100,000 a year for that.” 

Along with raising money, chapters commonly host service projects like equipment drives, where they collect things like batteries, scissors and notepads for the doctors working at base camps. They also put together “smile bags” filled with toothpaste, toothbrushes and treats to make children feel at ease after the surgery. 

The club is still in its fledgling stage, but Barnes wants to begin planning events and fundraisers soon. 

“We have so many cool ideas for fundraisers and service projects like a 5K run, a photo booth and a basketball tournament, but we want to start by getting the word out on campus,” he said. 

Barnes believes that getting involved with the work that Operation Smile does is right in line with our calling as Christians. 

“As a Christian, I believe we are supposed to go out into the world, share Christ’s love and make it evident that there is a difference in our lives,” Barnes said. “I feel that Operation Smile is a great way to show the difference in the community and say that we see this need and we want to serve in any way we can, whether that’s volunteering time, collecting supplies or raising money.” 

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