Sunday, October 31, 2010

Changing Lives One Smile at a Time – A Global Peacemaking Mission

     Want to make a child smile? Anytime and Everywhere? One who was born unable to do so? One, unable to swallow, who often has to wear a paper bag over his/her tiny face to hide an ugly cleft lip; a child whose mother cried for days after birth, humiliated, bitter and aggrieved that her baby was so malformed? A child who would not go to school for fear of being humiliated and scorned by fellow students? A child who would never marry? Who may die before her/his first birthday? (1 in 10 children born with a cleft condition!) Want to make mother, the father, and yourself really so happy that joyful and grateful tears are shed by one and all involved when the nurse brings the infant back from a mere 45 minute operation repairing the pre-birth damage and the parents first look at that sweet whole face, for the first time smiling back? Tears do unite all witnesses to this daily blessing.
     Operation Smile has been on what can only be called a "world citizen’s children mission" since 1982. I just witnessed its hour-long video showing the "before-and-after" result of the astounding and delicate work on each child's face by the team of dedicated medical volunteers. My own eyes were also full of tears as I watched the mothers and fathers look with amazement and relief at the beautiful new face of their child. One father remarked in joy that it was as if the child had just been born anew.
     Operation Smile "works in more than 60 countries worldwide," according to its blog, "to provide quality surgical care and give new smiles for children suffering from facial deformities." Millions have already benefited from this humanitarian operation.
     "Children are probably the only 'language' that all of us have in common throughout the world," said Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia at a recent dedication ceremony of a new center attended by physicians and leaders from over 40 countries. "The combination of medicine and children, I really believe," he added," has the ability to unite nations and people." Amen to that.
    I write three days before the mid-term elections in the United States. Considering the billions of dollars being spent on TV ads throughout this seemingly endless marathon with its total irrelevance to global problems such as the ongoing nuclear threat, the debilitating national armament race, the worldwide economic meltdown of national currencies, the ever-disappearing glaciers in the Arctic and Antarctic, the news of children and their parents being made happy and useful throughout our global village seemed to me to be an eminently worthwhile topic-as well as a meaningful antidote-for this blog.
     I would even suggest respectfully that one or two of the billionaires cited by Forbes, whose total worth exceeds $3 trillion, would help expand Operation Smiles's humanitarian work in the name of the world's innocent children who know no frontiers other than the common despair of their present disfigurement, which, one might say, is  symbolic of the adult world's social and political disharmony and possibly imminent demise.  I note that 78 of the billionaires are women while by Forbes account, only 6 were "self-made." How many are mothers, I wonder?
   The most recent billionaire closest in age (23) to the children themselves is founder of the social-networking site, Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg with $1.5b.  Given Facebook's philosophy and "joining" people to people worldwide (including yours truly), a perfect compliment and analogy of what Operation Smile is accomplishing with these rehabilitated children one-by-one now endowed with a worldwide common bond of joyful usefulness, Mark Zuckerberg, in this writer’s book, therefore, becomes a most logical benefactor (among other billionaires, of course) to advance this essential work in the name of a nascent humanity to which both the children and the Facebook constituency may enjoy life in happy global togetherness.[1] An operation costs a mere $240 yet insures a life of infinite value to a budding world citizen and, who knows, mayhap the universe itself!

[1] Convention on the Rights of the Child: (excerpts)

The States Parties to the present Convention,
Recalling that, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations has proclaimed that childhood is entitled to special care and assistance,
    Convinced that the family, as the fundamental group of society and the natural environment for the growth and well-being of all its members and particularly children, should be afforded the necessary protection and assistance so that it can fully assume its responsibilities within the community,
   Recognizing that the child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding,
   Bearing in mind that the need to extend particular care to the child has been stated in the Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child of 1924 and in the Declaration of the Rights of the Child adopted by the General Assembly on 20 November 1959 and recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (in particular in articles 23 and 24), in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (in particular in article 10) and in the statutes and relevant instruments of specialized agencies and international organizations concerned with the welfare of children,
Have agreed as follows:
Article 23
1. States Parties recognize that a mentally or physically disabled child should enjoy a full and decent life, in conditions which ensure dignity, promote self-reliance and facilitate the child's active participation in the community.
2. States Parties recognize the right of the disabled child to special care and shall encourage and ensure the extension, subject to available resources, to the eligible child and those responsible for his or her care, of assistance for which application is made and which is appropriate to the child's condition and to the circumstances of the parents or others caring for the child.
3. Recognizing the special needs of a disabled child, assistance extended in accordance with paragraph 2 of the present article shall be provided free of charge, whenever possible, taking into account the financial resources of the parents or others caring for the child, and shall be designed to ensure that the disabled child has effective access to and receives education, training, health care services, rehabilitation services, preparation for employment and recreation opportunities in a manner conducive to the child's achieving the fullest possible social integration and individual development, including his or her cultural and spiritual development
Article 24
1. States Parties recognize the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and to facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health. States Parties shall strive to ensure that no child is deprived of his or her right of access to such health care services.
2. States Parties shall pursue full implementation of this right and, in particular, shall take appropriate measures:
(a) To diminish infant and child mortality;
(b) To ensure the provision of necessary medical assistance and health care to all children with emphasis on the development of primary health care;
 (d) To ensure appropriate pre-natal and post-natal health care for mothers;