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Burger King puts smile back on kids’ faces

June 5, 2012

Volunteers from Operation Smile were back in Guadalajara this week, offering free cosmetic surgery to over 100 children born with a cleft palate or cleft lip.

“We give them back the right to smile,” said Benjamin Mijangos Borja, Operation Smile’s executive director in Mexico, at a press conference in the Jalisco Institute for Reconstructive Surgery on Wednesday morning.

Mijangos was joined by Doctor Jose Guerrero Santos, Operation Smile’s medical director, and Fernando Villegas, the director general of Burger King in Mexico. The latter’s presence was due to a new partnership between the fast food company and the international humanitarian organization.

Accompanied by the regal Burger King mascot, Villegas handed over a donation of 784,421 pesos to help pay for medical costs.

Founded in Norfolk, Virginia in 1982, Operation Smile has performed over 250,000 operations in over 60 countries. Volunteer surgeons from all over the world have operated on 1,465 children in Mexico since Operation Smile began coming here in 2006.

The current mission in Guadalajara is the 21st in Mexico to date. Between 100 and 115 local kids will have been operated on from Wednesday to Saturday, with Operation Smile set to return again in November for post-operations and new surgeries.

Of the 120 medical and non-medical volunteers taking part in the mission, just five are from the United States and the majority are from Mexico and Latin America. One of the non-medical volunteers is Margaret Ake, a university professor from the United States.

Ake is in charge of medical records. She began volunteering because her son Brian was born with a cleft palate.

“I usually try to go on one mission each year,” said Ake, who has been all over the world with Operation Smile. Aside from simply operating when they are here, she said training local doctors to become more self-sustainable is also an important part of their missions.

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