Smiles are worth it

2016-11-22 10:06
Operation Smile programme coordinator Adva Brivik.

Operation Smile programme coordinator Adva Brivik. (Zeke du Plessis)

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Managing over 5000 volunteers in 80 countries is no easy task, but it's well worth it when they're all working to put smiles on children's faces.

Operation Smile, a non-profit organisation, works to fund surgery for children born with cleft palates.Made up of an international network of community-based volunteers, Operation Smile delivers quality surgical care and medical services for vulnerable populations.

Adva Brivik is a program coordinator for Students and Chapters in South Africa. She creates opportunities for students to volunteer, facilitates opportunities to develop young leaders, creates support initiatives to raise awareness against bullying and provides platforms to advocate for safe surgery.

Adva herself began as an intern with the organisation after she learnt about Operation Smile at a gala dinner.

"I was blown away by the work they did and how passionate each and every volunteer felt. I started in September 2013 as an intern. By the following year I became permanent. Needless to say, it has been a rewarding and humbling journey ever since."

Although medical volunteers work in their speciality, there are a range of opportunities for non-medical volunteers, including the fields of patient imaging technology, translations and electronic and paper medical records.

"Operation Smile also sends a student team. The student team will assist with the patients by adding the very important emotional infrastructure to the medical mission. They are also tasked with teaching basic health care," Adva says.

"Operation Smile provides a wonderful and well-rounded exposure to both the healthcare systems and to patients as well as everything in between. We enjoy nurturing individuals and their ideas to get involved, from cake sales to Epic cyclist participants. Operation Smile is unique as it invites all family members to become involved and finds a part for them to play."

Although Adva's average day is filled with challenges such as marrying the right event with the right volunteers and inspiring volunteers to further their cause, there are many moments that make it worth it.

"My highlights vary from the reaction of a young adult who surpasses his own expectations to the smile of a patient's guardian when he sees his child for the first time," she says.

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