Welfare Program Recognized for Helping 3,800 Children Smile after Cleft Surgery
Philip M. Volmar, Church News and Events
In John 16:33, Jesus Christ said, “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
In following the Savior’s admonition, the Church’s welfare program has been giving 3,800 children in Egypt, Ethiopia, Jordan, and Kenya something to smile about by making surgery for their cleft palates and lips available.
At Operation Smile’s fifth annual Breakfast for Smiles on Tuesday in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, Presiding Bishop H. David Burton spoke about the Church’s partnership with the nonprofit organization, a medical charity that provides free surgeries that repair children’s faces and bring them hope for the future.
“Caring hearts can do marvelous things,” he said, speaking about the partnership. He said that welfare organizations can mobilize those caring hearts to “enhance the lives of our Father in Heaven’s children around the world.”
Facial clefts, which Operation Smile treats, present not only cosmetic but also physical challenges that can prevent sufferers from speaking coherently or eating or drinking properly. The condition may also prevent sufferers from being accepted in their communities. Left untreated, clefts can be deadly—the charity estimates that one-tenth of those born with a cleft will die before they are a year old.
Bishop Burton spoke as part of Operation Smile’s recognition of the Church and its global welfare program that focuses on families’ and individuals’ temporal needs.
The Church donated nearly $1 million (US) last year to Operation Smile, bringing the Church’s 20-year commitment to the organization to new heights. Since its beginnings, Operation Smile has helped some 160,000 children in more than 60 countries.
The 45-minute restorative surgery provided by the organization brings children hope, a principal tenet of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“My whole life changed,” said 16-year-old Chadleen Alberth-Lacdo-o, a former cleft sufferer from the Philippines who sang at the breakfast and who received treatment from Operation Smile when she was four years old. “I had no confidence inside of me before, but I’m now living the life of a normal kid.”
The recognition of the Church at the event comes during the 75th year of the Church’s welfare program, which was originally announced on April 6, 1936, during the Great Depression in the United States.
“The commitment of Church leaders to relieve human suffering was as certain as it was irrevocable,” said Bishop Burton about the welfare program during his October 2010 general conference address. “The hearts of Church members and leaders throughout the world are being positively influenced and guided by the doctrines and divine spirit of loving and caring for their neighbors.”