Volunteer Stories

A dream becomes a life.
South Africa

Plastic surgeon Dr. Bruce Lelala has followed his dream into medicine and changing lives.

Open Heart, Open Hands

Driven to help Mozambicans affected by cleft conditions, the 42-year-old nonmedical volunteer was responsible for bringing 18 potential patients to Operation Smile’s July 2018 medical mission held in Quelimane.

Happy to help
South Africa

Nicola-Jo recently attended her first mission. This is her story about the work Operation Smile does in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

A guardian angel
South Africa

A moment of kindness leads to a life of advocacy.

A love story strengthened by volunteering.
South Africa

Dr.’s Clare Neser and Conrad Pienaar are more than just partners in a busy surgical practice, they are husband and wife, seasoned medical professionals and long-term volunteers with Operation Smile.

A mother and daughter committed to cleft care.
South Africa

Donay and Marlise van der Merwe are a rare mother and daughter combination.

The one who is needed
South Africa

Editor's Note: The following story is the first-person account of guest blogger Sean Robson, Operation Smile South Africa Communications Coordinator, as he and photographer Zute Lightfoot accompanied Operation Smile volunteer Funeka Cele on a five-day patient advocacy journey through the South African province of Eastern Cape.


“Every child that has a facial deformity is our responsibility. If we don’t take care of that child, there’s no guarantee that anyone else will.”

- Kathy Magee, Operation Smile Co-founder and President