Operation Smile was founded in 1982 when Dr. William (Bill) P. Magee, Jr., a plastic surgeon, and his wife, Kathleen (Kathy), a nurse and clinical social worker, traveled to the Philippines with a group of medical volunteers to repair children’s cleft lips and cleft palates.
What they found was overwhelming. “People pushed their babies at us.” recalls Kathy. ”They tugged at our sleeves with tears in their eyes and begged us to help their children.” In Naga City, approximately 300 families arrived hoping their children would receive surgery, but the team could only treat 40 children. As they prepared to leave, the Magees made a promise they would return to help more children.
In 2007, to celebrate its 25th anniversary, Operation Smile organized simultaneous missions in 25 countries. Originally, Operation Smile South Africa planned a mission in Mozambique as part of this celebration. But a raising political unrest resulted in a cancellation of that mission site.
Fortunately for Madagascar, a member of Lions Club Analamanga Antananarivo learnt about this and proposed to organize, in only few weeks, the mission in Tamatave Madagascar instead, a country where Operation Smile has never been before.
On November 2007, hundreds of patients and families discovered that there is a solution to their condition. 259 came to the mission site to seek for care, many of them sleeping on the beach because they know no one in this coastal area on the East. 136 finally got the life-changing surgery they were hoping for so long.