07 December 2010

Operation Smile launches documentary

Operation Smile has launched an emotive documentary to highlight the plight of children born with facial deformities.


Operation Smile has launched an emotive documentary to highlight the plight of children born with facial deformities. With its advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi Cape Town they have documented the story of just one of these children and how 90 minutes changed their life forever.

More than 200 000 children are born with facial deformities like cleft palates and cleft lips world-wide every year, and it is estimated that every 3 minutes a child is born this way.

A cleft lip is a hole in the lip that has caused the lip not to form fully. A cleft palate is a hole in the roof of the mouth. In some cases there are people with both. These facial abnormalities are two of the most common in the world and are usually corrected shortly after birth, where there is sufficient access to healthcare.

Free surgery

Scarlett Steer at Operation Smile says, “Many parents often don’t know that these facial abnormalities can be corrected with proper care, or they simply do not have access to the necessary medical treatment, so they prepare their children for a life marred by pointing fingers and hushed whispers on their appearance. This is exactly how Dawie Smit felt for his son, until he was offered the free surgery from our organisation.”

The documentary is an emotive short 8-minute film, which tells the humble and heartfelt story of four-year old Brandan Aries who was part of the Operation Smile Referral System, caring for people with cleft lips and palates independently of their missions conducted.

The documentary is told through the very emotional narration of Brandan’s father, Dawie Smit and documents he and his father’s love story and small journey that made a big difference to this little boy’s life.

One in 750 children

Brandan was born in 2005 with a cleft lip; statistically he is 1 in 750 children that are born this way around the world. The documentary chronicles his experience living with the facial deformity in the small town of Graaff Reinet in the Eastern Cape and follows his amazing journey to Cape Town for his operation and the following months after his recovery.

Being part of Operation Smile’s referral programme allowed Brandan to travel to Cape Town on the 19th of December 2009 for his life-changing operation.

Steer continues, “The emotion felt at first viewing of the documentary is overwhelming.”

“Not only was Brandan’s aesthetic appearance affected by his condition, but he had trouble eating, refused to speak and was living in isolation after being shunned from his community. With the release of this documentary we are hoping that we can illustrate how 90 minutes can change a child’s life forever and encourage people to get involved in giving children around Africa many more smiles.”

'Changing lives'

She adds, “Operation Smile aims to spread smiles and change lives with the missions the organisation conducts throughout the year. “Since inception Operation Smile South Africa has performed 1700 surgeries across South Africa, Swaziland, Rwanda, the DRC, and Madagascar. We hope to add to this number continuously and this documentary gives us the opportunity to show people something tangible.”

The documentary is a true, simple story told with integrity and has in no way been manipulated. Steer continues, “We hope that this honesty will inspire those who see it and hopefully will give children suffering from these facial abnormalities a chance at a new life.”

For more information or to get involved visit

Operation Smile press release

- (Health24, December 2010) 

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A mouth that can now be kissed



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