April 26, 2019 | 62° F

Rutgers students raise funds for cleft lip surgery


Courtesy of Operation Smile | Operation Smile is a student-run group that raises funds to send to families of children with cleft lips or cleft palates. These funds help pay for reconstructive surgery for these children.

More than 170,000 children are born with cleft lips or cleft palates every year in third-world countries. Raising funds for reconstructive surgery to help these children is the one and only goal for Operation Smile.

According to the Mayo Clinic, these malformations result “when tissues in (a) baby's face and mouth don't fuse properly. Normally, the tissues that make up the lip and palate fuse together in the second and third months of pregnancy. But in babies with cleft lip and cleft palate, the fusion never takes place or occurs only part way, leaving an opening (cleft).”

A cleft lip is visible on a child's face, while a cleft palate means it impacts the roofs of their mouth.

By fixing this opening, children are able to smile confidently, significantly changing the course of their lives.

Smiling is a basic instinct that even babies know to do, said Sahil Suvarna, a School of Arts and Sciences junior.

"This is something that is imprinted in our genes," he said.

Suvarna, who is an officer within the club, said their ultimate goal is to help as many children as possible, and being a part of this club is a great way to help those less fortunate.

Money raised through fundraising events and efforts on campus is sent directly to the Operation Smile headquarters in Virginia Beach, Virginia. From there, the larger organization coordinates international and local medical missions, establishes care centers, conducts research programs, trains and educates staff and advocates for these surgeries.

Jeffin Naduparambil, treasurer, chief financial officer and the club's business manager, said one particular issue they tackle is exposure and awareness of their efforts.

“Many people do not know about the club and do not realize the importance of coming out to our events and helping out. We would like more Rutgers students to be aware of the club and understand what we fundraise for,” the School of Arts and Sciences sophomore said.

Operation Smile plans to hold their annual fall fundraiser, "The White Gala," and a "Date Auction" fundraiser in the spring, he said. 

They also host an annual Christmas Party at St. Peter's University Hospital in New Brunswick for children undergoing surgery who are unable to go home for the holidays, Suvarna said.

This event allows students to interact with the children they are helping and boost their motivation, Naduparambil said.

Operation Smile brings Christmas to the children in the form of games and prizes.

“Our efforts may not be realized immediately, but if we could make a difference in simply one child's life, it would make everything worth it," Naduparambil said. 

Colten Schreiner is a School of Engineering first-year student. He is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.

Colten Schreiner

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