Operation Smile Philippines was born 40 years ago in Bicol, thanks to a basket of bananas. In 1981, 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 volunteer medical organization called Interplast upon the invitation of then Gov. Felix Fuentebella of Camarines Sur.
There were hundreds of parents with their children who had cleft lips and cleft palates but the group couldn’t operate on all because Interplast also handled other medical cases. It was heartbreaking.
On the last day of the surgical mission, Bill and Kathy saw a woman and her daughter (who had not been operated on) with a basket of bananas.
The woman said, “Thank you for coming here to help our children.”
The Magees were so touched by the encounter and they vowed to come back with a group of medical volunteers to repair children’s cleft lips and cleft palates.
Thanks to their friends, including evangelist Pat Robertson who donated $30,000, the Magees came back in 1982 and Operation Smile was born.
Before Bill became a reconstructive surgeon, he was a dentist.
The Magees assembled a volunteer team of 18 doctors, nurses, and technicians for their own medical mission to the Philippines. They helped approximately 100 more patients, but again, hundreds waited to be treated.
Today, Operation Smile is an international medical charity with a global network of thousands of medical volunteers, including doctors, nurses, and other personnel, from more than 80 countries dedicated to helping improve the health and lives of children and young adults from more than 60 countries.
As Operation Smile Philippines turns 40, a medical team arrived in Naga City on November 21 and conducted operations on children and young adults. The doctors stayed until November 25 when all the children were discharged.
With the purpose of putting a smile on customers’ faces, Watsons Philippines began its partnership with Operation Smile nine years ago. Since then, the partnership has changed the lives of 2,152 children, who were born with cleft lip and palate conditions, through free surgeries.