Aiming for a Cleft-Free Manila – Immediate Action for Lasting Impact

Efforts are underway to achieve Zero Cleft Manila with the cooperation of individuals from various sectors, including both government branches and private healthcare companies. By taking concrete actions, we can make a meaningful difference in the lives of patients with cleft conditions, enhancing their quality of life for many years to come.

On May 23, 2023, the Philippine healthcare system underwent a significant transformation. This was made possible through the collaborative efforts of loyal partnerships, innovation, and teamwork. Operation Smile Philippines received 25 Cleft Care Boxes from Johnson & Johnson, a long-time supporter. Additionally, Listerine, a Johnson & Johnson brand, sponsored infographic tarpaulins to educate society about cleft conditions and raise awareness.

These Cleft Care Boxes contain essential items such as a Pediatric weighing scale, bath weighing scale, height scale, oximeter, and stethoscope. They were distributed to 4 different district health centers across Manila. These items are crucial in identifying patients needing cleft care and bring us one step closer to achieving our Zero-Cleft Manila initiative.

Working together with the Mayor of Manila, Hon. Honey Lacuna, Manila Health Department Dr. Poks Pangan, and Director of Sta. Ana Hospital Dr. Grace Padilla, we seek to enact change through an ambitious initiative of creating a cleft-free Manila. We are grateful for the support and commitment of our partners in this journey towards creating a better healthcare system for all.

Karo is committed to achieving a Zero-Cleft Manila through aligned efforts and a shared vision

Our goal of achieving a cleft-free Manila may seem ambitious, but with the support of others, it is within our reach. To help us achieve our Zero-Cleft Manila initiative, our partner Karo Pharma, a healthcare solutions company from Sweden dedicated to improving people’s health through innovation and high-quality solutions, made a significant contribution on May 23, 2023.

Karo Pharma generously donated 25 Cleft Care Boxes that contain essential items such as pediatric and bath weighing scales, height scales, oximeters, and stethoscopes.

These tools will impact patients in Manila, where the city’s health centers are their primary point of contact. We distributed the boxes to four different district health centers. At the distribution drive, we were honored to have Dr. Poks Pangan from the Manila Health Department and Dr. Grace Padilla, Director of Sta. Ana Hospital, present. Working together is crucial to achieving our goal, and we appreciate Karo Pharma’s support.

Soaring to New Heights with AirAsia and Operation Smile

In the photo: Jehro, Luke, and their families with AirAsia’s cabin crew.

Philippines AirAsia’s partnership with Operation Smile Philippines (OSP) began this year by transporting two children with cleft lip and palate conditions from Tacloban City to Manila on March 19, 2023. Jehro, who is three years old, and Luke, who is nine months old, received cleft and surgical care at OSP’s Pampanga Cleft Care Center, located in The Medical City Clark.

Jehro was born with both cleft lip and palate conditions. He had his first surgery at seven months old in OSP’s Tacloban Surgical Program in January 2019, right before the pandemic started. He was supposed to have his second surgery in 2020, but the pandemic affected all activities of OSP, causing a delay. However, at the start of 2023, OSP sought patients to fly to Manila for cleft care, and Jehro was chosen as one of the two patients.

Jehro, a 3-year-old boy, is an energetic kid who loves playing and watching sports like football, golf, and billiards. He also enjoys the ocean and exploring the nature around him. He is talkative and likes to sing. Jehro’s parents are very hands-on with their children, and they make ends meet by freelancing and selling clothes online.

“Hindi po namin makakalimutan itong moment na ito. Taos-puso po kaming nagpapasalamat.” [We will never forget this moment until he grows old. We’re grateful sincerely, from the bottom of our hearts.] Jehro’s mom said in an interview with the parents of the children.

Luke was born with a unilateral cleft lip. When he was nine months old, he received his first lip surgery. Luke’s father is a farmer and construction worker who is on call. When Luke was born, his parents were unaware that his condition could be addressed. Additionally, he was the only one in his family with a cleft lip. Upon seeing his cleft lip condition, neighbors often looked at Luke with dismay, but this did not trouble his parents. They immediately committed to the schedule after learning that Luke could receive surgery last March.

“Maraming salamat po sa AirAsia sa tulong po ninyo lalo na po sa anak namin. Di po namin ito makakalimutan. Kayo po ang maaalala namin tuwing ngumingiti po ang anak namin.” [Thank you, AirAsia, for all help specially to our child. We will never forget this. You’ll be the one we’ll remember every time our child smiles.] Luke’s mom said.

L-R: AirAsia Philippines Head of Communications and Public Affairs Steve Dailisan and Chief Executive Officer Ricky Isla hand over a cheque donation amounting to PHP229,249 to Operation Smile Philippines Executive Director Emiliano Romano and Development Manager Carolynne Arriola

In January 31, 2023, OSP and Philippines AirAsia renewed their alliance and strengthened their relationship with new innovative projects in the pipeline. AirAsia has been instrumental in the success of providing care to OSP’s patients, serving as their transportation provider, and sharing their cause with the many transient travelers who pass through their airlines. They announce their cause and collect onboard donations, making them a vital partner in providing care to their patients.

Inflight cash donations totaled more than half a million pesos for the past year, allowing OSP to provide even more comprehensive cleft care to their patients who need it the most. This year marks a new year and new opportunities to improve how to transform smiles more effectively.

AirAsia Philippines Chief Executive Officer Ricky Isla shares: “This reinforced partnership with Operation Smile Philippines signifies our resolve to make it happen for the Filipino children and their families. Our vision in AirAsia of inclusive growth is evident—-beyond connecting people, we want to be there for the people we serve, especially the marginalized. Each time you fly with AirAsia, you don’t just reach your destination safely, but you can change people’s lives for the better.”

Operation Smile Philippines Executive Director Emiliano Romano said, “I am ecstatic about renewing our partnership between Operation Smile Philippines and AirAsia.  Our vision and cause of transforming lives cannot be done alone; instead, it takes a community of like-minded individuals to affect change.  AirAsia has been an essential partner, a vessel, and a catalyst of change.

We look forward to more projects in the many years to come.”

AirAsia will be vital in transporting medical volunteers and patients in the coming years as Operation Smile Philippines grows.

Operation Smile Philippines- Partnerships, Collaborations, and Renovations bring us one step closer to a zero-cleft City of Manila

Deliberations on how to transform children’s lives are always met with heartwarming eagerness, but rarely are they executed with precision and haste.

The goal? A Cleft-Free Manila City with the support of Operation Smile Canada.

Operation Smile Philippines, the City Mayor of Manila, and Sta. Ana Hospital agreed a year ago on a project that will double down on transforming the lives of cleft patients by creating a Manila Cleft Care Center “MCCC.”

By renovating the 8th-floor surgical wing, we will ultimately double the capacity at which we can screen and conduct surgeries.

Today marks a milestone for Operation Smile Philippines as we had a ribbon-cutting day for the newly renovated Sta. Ana Hospital Ambulatory Surgical Clinic x Operation Smile brings us within striking range of the goal.

Present at the ribbon-cutting event:

Manila Mayor Honey Lacuña

Hospital Director Dr. Grace Padilla

Manila Vice Mayor John Marvin C Nieto

OSP Executive Director: Emiliano Romano

Pigeon Philippines Beneficiaries

Today, the first 2 beneficiaries of the donations from Pigeon Philippines received products for their babies who are born with cleft lip and palate conditions. These products shall support these children to receive the right amount of nutrition that they need as newborns. 

Babies born with cleft lip and palate conditions face various challenges of malnutrition because of difficulty in latching caused by the malformation of their lip and palate.

Pigeon is a brand well-known for its high-quality maternal and baby products. They are dedicated to promoting inclusivity by offering solutions that are tailor-fitted for the needs of babies so as to achieve happiness for every child one at a time.

Putting smiles on faces when we all need it most

The global pandemic has created a lot of disruptions, but the one thing it could not shut down is the power of volunteerism – people overcoming challenges to give their time and services to aid those impacted the most.

For Operation Smile Philippines (OSP), this means continuing to provide free reconstructive surgery, post-surgery speech therapy and related healthcare to children in resource-poor communities affected by a cleft lip or palate.

However, the pandemic has prevented volunteers from conducting the therapy in person. To get around the problem, they initiated an online speech therapy, or teletherapy, program in July 2021 so that they could continue their work to improve the children’s communication skills and self-confidence.

“This can have a transformative impact on the children as the goal is for them to be able to speak normally so that they can attend school and interact with other people without fear of being ridiculed,” said University of the Philippines professor, Fernando Alejandro Ligot, an OSP volunteer of 20 years. “We work with various partners, including UPS Philippines, to bring that smile back to the children.”

The global logistics provider, via its charitable arm The UPS Foundation, awarded a grant to OSP for the purchase of internet-ready tablets and headsets to equip patients with the tools to undergo therapy online. With more children, many of them scattered across the country, gaining access to the sessions, it helps OSP’s online speech therapy service – known as Assessment and Clinical Care through Electronic Speech Services, or ACCESS – to expand.

ACCESS comprises eight virtual sessions – one session per week for two months – with each patient assigned to a volunteer speech therapist. Each session is conducted in the presence of the patient’s parent or guardian who is also given instructions on additional exercises the child can practice at home in between sessions.

UPS employees are also volunteering to support the patients and their parents during therapy as well as outside of these sessions via teleconference calls. Each employee volunteer is assigned to a particular patient for the entire duration of the engagement.

“The partnership with UPS is a very significant and crucial collaboration because more kids are able to receive therapy, and therefore they have better opportunities to develop communication skills and become confident members of their communities and society,” said Emiliano Romano, Operation Smile Philippines Executive Director.

That difference is felt by those on the receiving end.

Maraming salamat sa Operation Smile kasi hindi sila nagsasawa na tumulong sa amin, mula surgery hanggang therapy. Hindi na mahiyain makipaglaro si Reeze. Mas naiintindihan na sya ng ibang bata. Nakatulong yon breathing exercises at lahat ng speech and reading exercises. Maraming salamat rin sa UPS sa pagbibigay ng gadget. Ang laking tulong sa therapy, pati na rin sa online classes ni Reeze [Thank you very much to Operation Smile for helping us from surgery to therapy. Reeze is no longer shy to play. Other children understand her better. Breathing exercises and all speech and reading exercises helped. Many thanks also to UPS for providing the tablet. This really helped in therapy, as well as with Reeze’s online classes,” said Joanalyn Pingki-an from Caloocan. Her 9-year-old daughter, Reeze Alaina is a Grade 3 student at the Arsenio Lacson Elementary School.

As part of their #UPSGivesBack global campaign, UPSers have committed to 30 million volunteer hours by 2030, with UPS Philippines participating in Operation Smile’s programs and other charities across the country as part of UPS’s Global Volunteer Month which takes place every year in April.

“Despite the pandemic, UPSers find ways to give back to the communities we serve by sharing our time and resources and connecting with people to build purposeful relationships and engagements,” said Tessa Santos, UPS Community Involvement Committee (CIC) executive sponsor and operations manager.

The UPS CIC is also organizing activities in partnership with SOS Children’s Villages Philippines, Project Pearls for the COVID-19 Hunger Relief Program and AIP Foundation for the Safety Delivered campaign which raises awareness of the importance of safe driving and child helmet use. 

“Many of these partnerships have been in place for years. We’ve completed numerous projects together already and we’re looking forward to continuing new initiatives for many years to come,” added Tessa.

Pigeon X OSP Partnership

Pigeon X OSP Partnership

July 29, 2022 – Pigeon Philippines representative Ms. Catherine Que, Division Marketing Manager visited the Operation Smile Philippines Makati head office to turnover their donations for their ongoing and future missions of putting smiles on children’s faces one at a time.

Pigeon is a brand well-known for its high-quality maternal and baby products, such as breast pumps, pacifiers, and baby bottles to name a few. They are dedicated to promoting inclusivity by offering products that are tailor-fitted for the needs of babies with cleft lip and palate conditions.

With this partnership, they donated the following to Operation Smile Philippines:

✔️ 108pcs Manual Breast Pump

✔️ 240pcs Nursing Bottle for Cleft Palate

✔️ 240pcs Post-op Bottles

This marks the beginning of Pigeon Philippines and Operation Smile Philippines working simultaneously for their shared vision of bringing happiness to children’s lives.

AirAsia Philippines, Operation Smile Philippines forge partnership to help children with cleft

Philippines AirAsia is giving free transport to volunteers and patients of Operation Smile Philippines (OSP) to areas served by the leading budget carrier. OSP has been treating Filipino children with cleft lip and cleft palate since 1982, providing them with medical evaluation, dental treatment, reconstructive surgery and speech therapy – all for free. To date, the medical charity has treated more than 30,000 patients from all over the country. Philippines AirAsia serves 14 domestic destinations. The sponsorship agreement was signed recently by Philippines AirAsia president and CEO Ricardo Isla (middle), chief finance officer Raymund Berja (second from left) and OSP executive director Emiliano Romano (second from right). Also in photo are AirAsia Communications and Public Affairs head Steve Dailisan, (left) and OSP development manager Carol Arriola (right).