Sasha takes me along to the Operation Smile Chapter meeting

I joined Sasha at the Cape Town Operation Smile Chapter meeting at the Sgt Peppers Pizza restaurant on Thursday.  I trekked along, not wanting to disappoint her because I had to turn down a previous invitation due to work commitments. Tonight was a similar challenge but I decided to forego another engagement.  This was the best decision I made because the experience was uplifting and energising.


Sasha and her Bergvliet Operation Smile committee members
 The pre-meeting activities

The atmosphere was jovial and Sgt. Peppers laid back ambience added to the experience. When we arrived we had to go the various 'stations' set up and manned by friendly hosts. First you signed the attendance register then you placed your pizza order ( and get one free),  and the final stop was to fill in a Woolworths My school card application. While all this was happening to the new arrivals, we had Naomi darting about making sure everybody was comfortable and the photographer capturing all the moments.

Hearing all about Operation Smile

Once all this was done, we finally sat in a circle to start the meeting. After quick introductions, the formalities started. Naadhira, the Operation Smile Programme Coordinator : student clubs and chapters, gave an overview of Operation Smile that is run almost exclusively by volunteers across the world in 60 countries. We hear how children with cleft abnormalities suffer physical and emotional trauma.We watch a video of a young, beautiful child having her cleft lip transformed in 45 minutes - that is the time it takes to change the lives of such children.  Touching stuff.  Two volunteers share their experience of going on missions with Operation Smile.

I thoroughly enjoy this firsthand feedback and I am so pleased that I had come along with Sasha tonight.  The beauty of volunteering for Operation Smile is so simple; there are no strings attached. You give what you can, when you can - from a small tube of toothpaste or a toothbrush or anything else - and that's it. There is no pressure at all - merely a request to spread the notion of giving back and helping to grow the circle of volunteers who would love to be involved in changing the lives of children who do not have access to medical care. 

From Clockwise, Upper left frame: few of the Op Smilers, Naadhira and Sophie in conversation, Sasha and Basil chatting, Naadhira and me taking out time to pose for a picture.
Possibilites for schools to encourage Operation Smile societies

I am definitely a budding volunteer and fortunately Sasha is my link.  I can see the idea of an Operation Smile society at the schools I serve. It is a wonderful opportunity to create leadership opportunities, even at our primary schools. I can see learners enjoying this kind of volunteer/community service or outreach programme that they can run themselves. Imagine the confidence booster for our learners being members of such a society and being able to collect say, a few tubes of toothpaste or getting grandmothers or mothers to stitch a little gown for a needy child somewhere in Africa. The interesting aspect which is also appealing is that young children can bring along their parents to Chapter meetings, making such spaces wonderful bonding sessions for parents and children. That is how Naomi Jansen, the co-chair of the Cape Town Operation Smile chapter became involved- and hooked- to Operation smile. This is how I too landed at the Chapter meeting - via Sasha, my daughter, who invited me along.

A few of us at the Opsmile meeting, sitting on the deck enjoying our pizzas.
After the meeting

After the meeting, our pizzas arrive. I kick off my shoes on the deck, perch myself at the table and soak in the sounds of the Beatles, the beautiful evening with open skies and the quieting rhythms settling along Long street.



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