Hello! Project S.M.I.L.E consists of a group of Canadian students in St. Benedict C.S.S. looking to spread awareness for cleft conditions. The vision of Project S.M.I.L.E is a world wherein people with cleft lip and palate are accepted, and where students can work together to create solutions towards these conditions. Thus, the “S.M.I.L.E” in the title of this project aligns with Operation Smile, standing for “Student Movement Impacting Lives Everywhere,” but also represents bringing a smile to the faces of others who have to suffer the difficulties and challenges associated with cleft lip and palate.
What is Cleft Lip and Palate? What are some difficulties associated with these conditions?
Every three minutes, a child is born with cleft lip or cleft palate. A cleft lip or a cleft palate
is a common condition that develops during pregnancy; it is a gap in the mouth that does not close. These conditions can be both easy and difficult to see, depending on where the cleft was formed. A combination of genetics, poor nutrition and pregnancy problems can all increase the chances of developing cleft conditions, although many are still unknown.
Perhaps the largest issue, however, is the social implications one faces often with a cleft lip and palate. For instance, Tereza, an Operation Smile patient, grew up being constantly bullied and made fun of for her condition. The isolation from her community led her to stop going to school and connecting with her community. If her community had been more educated on her condition, they would understand that it does not define her or make her less human, and that she could not control what she was born with. Read her story here: https://www.operationsmile.org/blog/life-free-bullying.
We like to believe that in many cases, social isolation and bullying are mechanisms people use when they are afraid of the unknown. And so, when the unknown is understood and normalized, people’s attitudes of such topics improve.
In this sense, recognizing this fear and addressing it through our community also eventually leads to a greater network to get those with cleft lip and palate towards more reliable and affordable treatments. If we can reduce the stigma associated with cleft conditions, we can better work towards providing solutions.
What can you do?
Project S.M.I.L.E’s mission is to work with Operation Smile, a company whose mission aligns with ours, to promote accurate educational awareness throughout students and youth in the Waterloo region through social media, volunteering activities, and networking with ambassadors nationally from August through October of 2020.
Because Project S.M.I.L.E focuses on raising awareness on the stigma around cleft conditions, for every smile donated to our cause ($240), we will host an event with our school club raising awareness for the bullying many patients have had to face with cleft lip and palate. Every donation counts - no matter how big or small! Spread the word - share this link with your friends and family so we can all make a difference together.